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Made in the Philippines

OF COURSE, you know who Thomas Alva Edison is. He is an American scientist and inventor, with over 1,000 patents to his name (to name some: electric light bulb, telephone transmitter, phonograph, movie camera, mimeograph, and fluoroscope) .

Here's one story you may not have known about this guy. He was talking one day with the governor of North Carolina, who complimented him on his inventive genius. "I am not a great inventor," Edison told him.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo "But you have over a thousand patents to your credit, haven't you," the governor queried. Edison's reply surprised the government official: "Yes, but about the only invention I can really claim as absolutely original is a phonograph. I guess I'm an awfully good sponge. I absorb ideas from every source I can and put them to practical use. Then I improve them until they become of some value. The ideas which I use are mostly the ideas of other people who don't develop them themselves."

Unknowingly, Filipinos have made an outstanding contribution in the field of science and technology. Alexander Graham Bell invented the mechanical telephone but it took a Filipino by the name of Camilo M. Tabalba to make the telephone electronic, leading to cheaper phones, lighter in weight, smaller, and adopted to a variety of needs.

A pontoon bridge is a floating bridge used as early as 400 B.C. by Persian engineers to transport the invading armies of Xerxes across the rivers. However, it took a Filipino engineer--Alejandro Melchor--to critically analyze the different factors affecting a pontoon bridge and thus compute ahead of time the requirements for building a bridge. This knowledge was widely used during World War II military operations.

Researchers cannot pin down the origin of yoyo and concluded that many people in many places probably independently invented it. The first picture evidence of a yoyo occurred on a Greek vase dated around 500 B.C. where a young Greek was depicted playing a yoyo.

However, it was not until a Filipino--Pedro Flores--introduced to the world a different type of stringing the yoyo. Flores, who emigrated to the US in 1920--is credited with developing the spinning-type yoyo string allowing the yoyo to "sleep," that is, rotate in place when the string has completely unrolled, before going back up. From then on, yoyo was never the same and became the world's most popular toy.

In the Philippines, a good source to counter the disease beri-beri was found in the rice bran. Tiki-tiki is how the extract is called. A Filipino pharmacist, Manuel Zamora, made tiki-tiki stable and readily available in small bottles as United American Tiki-tiki. The extract was purified by Robert R. Williams--the son of American missionary-- and identified as vitamin B or thiamine, the first vitamin ever isolated in the world.

The patents for the synthesis of the anti-beri-beri substance were assigned to the Research Corporation of New York, a non-profit organization for the encouragement of research. The royalties have provided a fund known as the Williams-Waterman Fund for the Combat of Dietary Diseases.

Before the advent of ball pens, fountain pens were the standard writing implements. These needed ink that is permanent easily dries and does not run out of the pen or on the paper when you write. Dr. Francisco Quisumbing, a Filipino chemist, formulated such ink known as Quink in 1923. This famous ink is still in use at present.

In the world of global competitiveness, quality of products is important. Many factors are involved in producing quality products even in a simple gadget like a flashlight. For more complicated products and operations like a car or satellite, a system of evaluating the numerous parts is needed. Dr. Jose B. Cruz, Jr., a Filipino engineer, developed a device called "Comparison Sensitivity Matrix," which is used by many manufacturers all over the world in analyzing and maintaining the quality of their products.

Dr. Rafael D. Guerrero III is considered the "father of tilapia" in the Philippines. He observed that the initial problem of tilapia culture is overpopulation. Growing only one sex of tilapia can prevent this problem.

But selection is a Herculean task. He found that male tilapia grows faster and bigger and suggested that only male tilapia be grown.

With this idea, he developed a sex hormone--called SRT-95--which are fed to the fry and converts females to males. This method, known as sex reversal technology, is now widely used around the world and tilapia has provided the important protein for many countries.

Other acknowledged Filipino inventors include Diosdado Banatao for his single-chip graphical user interface accelerator; Marc Loinaz, one-chip video camera; Abelardo Aguilar, discovery of Erythromycin antibiotic; Josefino Comiso, study of the polar regions; Carlos Ibarra, design and analysis of algorithms; Leo Yau, development of microchip; and Dr. Ramon Gustilo, artificial bone replacement systems.

Let me end this piece with this amusing anecdote. In January, the Americans announce a new invention. In February, the Japanese claim they made the same discovery 20 years ago. In March, the Filipinos start exporting the invention to the United States

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