Filipino Invention Myths We Totally Fell For
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
It wasn’t until I was in
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
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.
For comparison, here is what San Juan’s design looks like:
And here is what NASA’s actual moon rovers look like:
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
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
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
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
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.