Filipino Invention Myths We Totally Fell For

These are the Filipino invention myths they used to teach us back at school.

Filipinos have been exposed to a number of hoaxes and untruths, which we sadly swallowed hook, line, and sinker because we didn’t know better. The Tasaday Hoax, for example, is considered the biggest government-backed hoax in the world. Now that we know better, it's amusing to look back at the most preposterous lies we’ve been made to believe, such fake Filipino inventions.

Filipino Invention Myth No. 1: The Fluorescent Lamp


It was 1998: I was in third grade and remember reading in my Sibika textbook that Agapito Flores invented the fluorescent lamp (allegedly an eponym of his name). There he was, Agapito Flores (Inventor of the Fluorescent Lamp), pictureless, listed among Filipino greats to be proud of, including Lydia de Vega (Asia’s Sprint Queen), Lisa Macuja (Asia’s Prima Ballerina), and Flash Elorde (Asia’s Boxing Champion). My teacher, who knew no better, confirmed what the textbook stated. In any case, the spelling of “fluorescent” should have been a glaring clue. According to the textbook, in the early 20th century, Filipino electrician Agapito Flores invented the fluorescent lamp, which was allegedly named after himself.


It wasn’t until I was in third year high school when I learned the truth. Our chemistry teacher angrily lashed out at a class report: “Agapito Flores did not invent the fluorescent lamp, it was a HOAX!” she bellowed, her nostrils flaring with indignation, while summing up everything I had learned in her class. She was right: The rumor that Flores invented the eponymous fluorescent lamp was a lie. The term fluorescent lamp comes from the word fluorescence (not Flores), a phenomenon observed as far back as the 16th century and described on paper in the 19th century. Fluoresence is a form of lighting characterized by the emission of light by a substance that has absorbed electromagnetic radiation. The word also predates Flores’ birth by 45 years.

Today’s version of the lamp can be credited to three inventors: Edmund Germer, Friedrich Meyer, and Hans Spanner. In 1927, they co-patented the high-pressure vapor lamp design used by today’ s fluorescent lamps. By the time Flores had allegedly presented his “invention” to President Quezon in 1935, General Electric had already produced it and presented it to the public.

Filipino Invention Myth No. 2: The Moon Buggy

Another fake Filipino invention that fooled textbook authors and grade school teachers was the Moon Buggy. According to the hoax, Filipino engineer Eduardo San Juan invented the Lunar Roving Vehicle, more commonly known as Moon Buggy, that was used for NASA’s Apollo missions from 1971 to 1972.

To be fair to San Juan, he was a talented engineer and visionary whose name was used unabashedly to further a hoax. He did submit a lunar transport vehicle design to NASA, but it was not selected.

Recommended Videos

For comparison, here is what San Juan’s design looks like:

Photo by Eduardo San Juan | NASA.

And here is what NASA’s actual moon rovers look like:

Photo by NASA.

There is no doubt NASA did not adopt San Juan’s designs, and opted for a much simpler and skeletal design. One of the major considerations that could have influenced NASA’s decision to opt for a simpler design was the weight of the rover. Today, the cost of launching one pound of material (like a water bottle) into space can be somewhere from P473,200 to P2,245,360. Forty years ago, that cost would have been much larger, so every pound counted. San Juan’s heavy design could have weighed down his chances of being selected.


Filipino Invention Myth No. 3: The Armalite


Like the alleged invention of the fluorescent lamp, the M16, also known as armalite, is allegedly an eponym of its Filipino inventor, Armando Malite. According to the tale, a certain Armando Malite invented the armalite during World War II. The United States was allegedly so impressed with his invention, that they pressured Malite to sell its patent so they could mass produce the firearm. The U.S. then renamed it as the M-16.

ArmaLite is actually the name of a small arms manufacturing company established in the U.S. in 1954, closed in 1980, and then revived in 1996. It produced a series of rifles, one of which was the AR-15, which it licensed to Colt, another firearms manufacturer.

In 1962, Colt sold the AR-15 to the U.S. Air Force, which then used the firearms in the Vietnam War. That led to its full adoption in the U.S. military, becoming its main combat rifle in 1964, with the official designation as Rifle, Caliber 5.56 mm, M-16.


Looking back, it now seems absurd that a nonexistent Filipino named Armando Malite (in some versions, the name is Armando Lite, which seems much more theatrical) invented the armalite.

Filipino Invention Myth No. 4: The Yoyo


This was another Filipino invention myth peddled in schools. According to some of our teachers and textbooks, the yoyo was a pre-colonial Filipino weapon used by our forefathers as a strung projectile.

What is suspicious about the claim the yoyo originated in the Philippines is the lack of archaeological evidence to support it. When it comes to precolonial Filipino weaponry, we have plenty of evidence that show what kinds of weapons Filipinos used in the past, such as bows and arrows, bamboo and ceramic spears, bolos, and krises. Archeological and recorded evidence show pretty much all kinds of weapons used by precolonial Filipinos, except the yoyo.

The consensus among archaeologists is that the yoyo originated in Ancient Greece, circa 500 B.C. The ancient yoyo was a disc tied to a string with a knot, and used as a toy to relax a person’s nerves, like a stress reliever.


According to the Museum of Yoyo History, yoyos would not make an appearance in the Philippines until the American occupation. In the early 1900s, the Philippines would become a major producer of the toy, thanks to its American colonizers. Then, in 1928, a Filipino by the name of Pedro Flores started his yoyo company in the United States.

The yoyos produced by Flores were the forerunners of most modern yoyos: They were attached to the disc by a looped string, not tied with a knot, allowing the disc to “hang” at the end of the string. While Filipinos did not invent the yoyo, we could at least be credited for innovating how it was used and played with.

View More Articles About:
More Videos You Can Watch
About The Author
Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor
View Other Articles From Mario
Latest Feed
Load More Articles
Connect With Us