Villarica: The day the Philippines ‘discovered’ the world

By Dr. Rodolfo M. Villarica

Villarica

(Editor’s note: The author, who is regarded as one of the “Fathers of Philippine Internet” together with Dr. Bill Torres, delivered this message during the 20th anniversary forum titled “Your Internet, Your Data” last March 29, 2014 at the AIM Conference Center in Makati City, and at the Internet20PH conference organized last April 4, 2014 by the Advanced Science and Technology Institute at the Crowne Plaza in Pasig City.)

“Success has many fathers, failure only one.”

Credits go to about 83 persons and institutions without whom we would not have a 20th anniversary today. I realize that we all find the genealogy in the bible a little boring but please bear with me.

I personally give thanks and foremost credit to the late Dr. Ricardo Gloria who, unlike previous secretaries of DOST, gave full financial support and backing to an esoteric (sometime erotic) project called Internet whose benefits were not fully known and understood at that time.

Philippine Internet Foundation Inc. (PHNet) was originally conceived by a group of computer buffs (techies) led by Glen Sipin of the DOST and under the full encouragement of then Undersecretary Dr. William G. Padolina who convinced DOST secretary Gloria. The DOST cast at that time were Dr. Linda Posadas, Undersecretary Estrella F. Alabastro, Asisstan Secretary Imelda Rodriguez, Commission on Audit auditor Cruz, Merl Opena, etc.

Thanks to the techies, who, under the guidance of Arnie del Rosario of Ateneo de Manila University, who five years earlier prepared a study of Internet with co-faculty Dr. R. Alberto A. Villarica: Glen Sipin, Merl Opena. Miguel Dimayuga, Joseph Andres, Winnefredo Aggabao, Ritchie Lozada, Alfonso Carandang, Rodel Atanacio, Cecilia Espinosa, Fernando Contreras and University Technical Representatives, Ian Generalao of St. Louise University, Kelsey Hartigan-Go of De La Salle University, and Bombim Cadiz of Xavier University.

Thanks to the indefatigable assistance throughout of Cesar Santos, Industrial Research Foundation executive director, who made the birth pains of PHNet bearable.

Thanks to the original university members who flinched a little when they found out there was no free lunch in setting up Internet even with the initial DOST funding of P12.5 million because they had to start paying after a grace period of four months.

The original regular members were, in alphabetical order: Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, Industrial Research Foundation, St. Louis University, University of the Philippines-Diliman, University of the Philippines-Los Banos, University of San Carlos, University of Santo Tomas, and Xavier University.

Thanks to the brave souls who signed up as preferred members at $3,000.00 per month sharing a pipeline of 64 kbps to the Internet connection in Stockton, California without whose extra support, the Internet connection would have ceased in six months.

These are the Asian Development Bank, Asian Institute of Management, Exchange Communications, Executive Power Center, Global System Interconnect, International Rice Research Institute, Mosaic Communications, and Philippine Data Exchange.

Thanks also to the US National Science Foundation apostle, Dr. Steven Goldstein, who accelerated our connectivity to Internet. Thanks to the Industrial Research Foundation which accepted the responsibility as sponsor of full Internet access upon invitation by DOST: The trustees were Meneleo J. Carlos Jr., chairman, Cesar Santos, executive director, Dr. Gloria Ll. Chanco, Fernando Baldivia, Vicente G. Lava, Jr.+, Dr. Rufino Lirag Jr.+, Eriberto Pineda, and Dr. Rodolfo M. Villarica, Internet administrator.

Thanks to the management of PHNet: Cesar Santos, Risa Carlos. general manager and Ricardo “Ritchie” Lozada, technical manager. Thanks, too, to the original incorporators and trustees of the Philippine Network Foundation Inc. (which was incorporated four months after the first connection and operations) Fr. Bienvenido F. Nebres SJ, Jose Antonio Calvo+, Dr. Fortunato R. de la Pena Jr, Dr. Emil G. Javier, Dr. Roger Posadas, Dr. Ruben Villareal, Fr. Virgilio A. Ojoy OP, Fr. Joseph van den Daelen CICM, Fr. Ernesto M. Lagura SVD, Meneleo J. Carlos Jr, Fr. Antonio S. Samson, SJ, Dr. Glory Ll. Chanco, Arnaldo D. del Rosario, Dr. Lilian J. Sison, Rosanna A. Gonzalez and Dr. Rodolfo M. Villarica.

Thanks to the First International Email Conference (and last) organized by Dr. John D. Brule, Syracuse University professor, with the able assistance of Eng-Leong Foo (from Sweden) and Danilo Caacbay (from Austria) during which the first connection was made through Benjie Tan of Dr. Willy Gan’s company, Mozcom in Manila and Ritchie Lozada in the University of San Carlos in Cebu City.

On March 17, 1521, Magellan “discovered” the Philippines and 473 years later, on March 29, 1994, the Philippines “discovered” the world and the World Wide Web of information. It was a great feeling for me.

The Internet has equalized access to the world for rich and poor. Of course it was only a footpath — an incredibly small 64 kbps (kilobits per second) which cost $11,000 per month. We can now access the Internet at 100 mbps (megabits per second) for a few dollars.

Thanks to Martin Tarnate and Antonio Abreu for free increased bandwidths (T1 lines) in the early days. Thanks to Jim Ayson and Chette Soriano for the original series of Chronicles: “Hooked Up: The Day the Philippines Connected to the Net”. And to many others whom I may have forgotten due to the passage of 20 years: Thank you!

Last but not least, thanks to Mr. Meneleo J. Carlos Jr. who guided me during crucial negotiations with telcos; and to my wife, Pilar, for her moral support. May the Force be with you!

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