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5 Filipino Teachers Who Are Also World-Class Inventors

We honor them and others on Paper Bag Day this July 12.

To those who knew him, Francis Wolle wasn’t just a priest of the Moravian Church, a school teacher, and a noted psychologist. He was an inventor too, and in 1852 he created a product that remains as relevant today: the paper bag.

Today, the importance of the humble paper bag endures. An eco-friendly alternative to the plastic bag, it can be made of kraft paper or recycled paper. So essential are paper bags to consumers and the environment that July 12 has been declared as Paper Bag Day—a day to spread awareness on using paper bags to address pollution and climate change. (Read: European efforts to curb plastic in oceans are working – scientists)

In celebration of Paper Bag Day this July 12 and the versatile Francis Wolle, here are five Filipino teachers who did more than craft lesson plans and lecture for hours. They made communities better with their exciting inventions.  

Ma. Regaele Olarte, Muntinlupa National High School

these-5-filipino-teachers-are-also-world-class-inventors
(Right) Research adviser Ma. Regaele Olarte (center) looks on as her students at Muntinlupa National High School work on a project that could bag the top prize in an international competition promoting renewable energy. (Photos from Ma Regaele Olarte Facebook and Dexter Cabalza / Inquirer.net)

Invention: A rechargeable silver spoon to keep drinks warm and sterilized till the last drop. The idea, teacher Regaele says, came from the old-school practice of folks putting silver coins in their food and drinks to keep them from spoiling. 

“It is very fulfilling when you see your students work independently as scientists, even to the point that I become merely their shadow,” she said in an interview. “It just shows that they know what they’re doing and they are applying the concepts they have learned.” 

An advocate of “invention-driven instruction”—that is, pushing students to solve problems by thinking out of the box—teacher Regaele was among Metrobank’s Ten Outstanding Teachers of 2016. (Read: Meet the Pope’s Favorite Teachers)

The Teachers and Students of Western Philippine University

these-5-filipino-teachers-are-also-world-class-inventors
Students and faculty from the Western Philippines University in Aborlan, Palawan led by vice president for administration and finance Nilo Banlawe (fourth from left), Mirriam Banlawe, dean of the College of Engineering and Technology (center) and Maria Eden Llavan, WPU faculty and in-charge of the university’s Cashew Food Processing project (second from left). (Photo from Epi Fabonan III / The Philippine STAR)

Invention: Wine, juice, fruit, and candies all made from cashew fruit, which is abundant in the province. The goal is to make the most of the cashew fruit while expanding the range of products of the cashew industry. 

“These products were developed using technologies developed through our research at WPU,” said Western Philippines University (WPU) Aborlan faculty member Maria Eden Llavan in an interview. “These products will help our local farmers because normally, they cannot use the cashew fruit. They only use the seed. Now, they don’t have to throw away the fruit. They can sell it to the university and earn money in the process.” 

William Moraca, Datal Salvan Elementary School

these-5-filipino-teachers-are-also-world-class-inventors
Photo from GMA Network

Inventions: Modified solar panels that provide electricity to Datal Salvan’s classrooms, a magnetic force water system that draws fresh water from the falls and pumps it to the school and homes in the community, and a power-generating windmill that lights up the sleepy village of Sitio Klolang (where he also teaches in the primary level) for free.  

Home to the indigenous B’laan and T’boli tribes, sitios Datal Salvan and Klolang have long been deprived of things city folks take for granted—education and utilities, for starters. Sir William, who overcame poverty and limited opportunities by studying and working hard, could relate to their struggles. (Read: Meet the 15yo Mindanaoan genius who made it on the Forbes list)

“Inside the classroom I saw hardships and difficulties in the eyes and faces of my pupils, the same hardships and challenges I was once faced with,” Sir William said in an interview. “I must do something more.” 

For his innovation and care, he was hailed as Asia’s finest teacher and received the Princess Maha Chakri Award in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2015. 

Dr. Julian A. Banzon, U.P. Los Baños

these-5-filipino-teachers-are-also-world-class-inventors
Photos from Alchetron and Alibaba

Invention: Renewable sources of fuels and chemicals from indigenous crops

The late Dr. Banzon was a pioneer in tapping local crops for alternative fuel. He produced ethyl ester fuel from sugar cane and coconut, and derived ethanol, butanol, and acetone from cassava. 

For his contributions to Philippine science, he was recognized as National Scientist in 1986 by then President Ferdinand Marcos. 

Aisa Mijeno, De La Salle University Lipa

these-5-filipino-teachers-are-also-world-class-inventors
(Right) Salt co-founder Aisa Mijeno inspects her invention, which is bringing lighting to remote villages in the Philippines. (Photos from Generation T and Jilson Tiu / Nikkei Asian Review)

Invention: LED lamp that runs on tap water and table salt 

It was President Barack Obama who first brought our attention to Aisa when he “served as a matchmaker” to the De La Salle University (DLSU) Lipa teacher and Jack Ma, co-founder and former CEO of Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd, during the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Manila. 

Together with her brother Raphael, Aisa invented the Sustainable Alternative Lighting (SALt) Lamp, an LED lamp that runs on saltwater. The lamp was her eco-friendly and safe alternative to kerosene lamps used by the Butbut tribe of Kalinga.  

“Curiosity should be a researcher’s game,” she said in an interview. “You should never stop questing after the truth and learning in the process. Learning is always the best part, after all.” 

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