10 Outstanding Filipino Internet Primemovers of the Phils.

Father of Philippine Internet

1. William Torres
Bill Torres is the president and co-founder of MosCom Internet (together with Dr. William Gan). He is also the current chief executive of the Philippine Internet Service Organization (PISO). But his commitment to the development of the local Internet scene didn’t start there but goes way, way back.
“I was there at the very beginning when it all came up,” he said. Bill’s affair with IT started in 1966 when he was chosen and sent on a Fulbright Hays grant to pursue a graduate’s degree in computer science in the United States. “I was the first Filipino to obtain a Ph.D. in computer science.” In the Cory Aquino government years (1986-1992), he was appointed as the managing director of the National Computer Center (NCC) and chaired the Information Technology Coordinating Council (now called the National Information Technology Council or NITC).

What he and others consider as his greatest contribution in the industry happened in 1992 when he initiated the first informal negotiations with the US National Science Foundation to bring the Internet to the Philippines. He was also the first to approach government agencies to sponsor the project. “During those years the government had very little money, fortunately there were other people like Ricardo Gloria and William Padolina who believed as I did that we should not wait to get the Internet into our country,” he said. Today, his pioneering efforts have earned the unofficial title among his circles as “the father of Philippine Internet,” and said he has no qualms about the results. “I believe the industry is enjoying a healthy growth in our country despite many difficulties (i.e., very expensive leased lines and dial-up lines) and uncertainties (metering, convergence policy issues, e-commerce, etc.).” According to his vision: “The Internet will be the main information and communication system for the world and for our country.

2. Manny Amador

Manny Amador, a freelance writer and IT consultant, also owns a small company, magNET Communications, and is into web development, with projects such as the NO.TO.METERING Website (www.iconn.com.ph/magnet/), Heavenly Stitches (www.xstitch.com.ph), and the temporary webpage of the Philippine League for Democratic Telecommunicators, Inc.(PLDTI).

Words of wisdom: “I don’t like to think of myself as being a bigtime contributor to the Internet industry, but I think that my most relevant action is my work with PLDTI, which is exposing the lies in PLDT’s metering scam. We have embarked on a public awareness campaign; files criminal charges against Tonyboy Cojuangco, Simeon Kintanar, and the other former commissioners; and files a motion to intervene in case 97-039 (PLDT’s petition for so-called “rate rebalancing”),” says Amador.

Amador envisions a “competitive, innovative industry that can male a significant and positive contribution to the economic, intellectual, and even spiritual development of our country,” which can be achieved by having ready and affordable access to the Internet and telecommunications facilities.

3. Jim Ayson

Jim Ayson, Philippine Regional Directory for Microsoft Developers Network (MSDN), is one of the pioneers of the Philippine Internet industry. Ayson is the creator of PhilMusic.com, the biggest winner in the recently held Philippine Webby Awards, having been adjudged as Best Music Web Site and Web Site of the Year. He also spearheaded the largest and most active mailing list in the country, the Philippine Cyberspace Review (PH-Cyberview), which is slowly gaining ground as the prime medium of communication and exchange of news and ideas among Filipinos in the industry.

Ayson is back with W3 Business Communications, an independent consulting business, conducting seminars and speaking engagements in areas related to the Internet, which he has always been known for from the start.

Words of wisdom: 

“I don’t really view myself as a hard core techie. My main gift I think through the years was an effective communicator who understood enough about technology to demystify it for the everyman.”

“I did a lot of writing and speaking on the subject along with a lot of the other early Net personalities. This early “evangelism” helped to raise awareness early on.” For instance, one of the first attendees of a web orientation seminar he gave in 1994 was Mike Marasigan, who is now COO of Businessworld Online.

He hopes for the Internet to be available not only among the upper classes, but to the masses as well. However. “I’m not part of an ISP, so I can’t do anything about bringing down cost. But I’m interested in sharing my talents with NGOs and the government sector to see how we can develop web sites that can effect real change and development, and thus indirectly make the Internet beneficial and relevant to more people,” Ayson added.

“For 1999 I am excited about developing two business-to-consumer e-commerce projects under the aegis of PhilMusic and WebMarket. These include PhilMusic Direct, which is a CD retail operation aimed for the overseas market – selling OPM CDs abroad – and CD Manila, which is for the Philippine market, taking orders for specialty imports and used CDs.”

“Winning recognition in the Webby awards and being featured in this article is probably one of the best things to happen this year, especially in the light of the combined personal and professional crisis that affected me for the first half of 1998. It was a tremendous honor to be recognized, however it also brings with it a tremendous pressure to excel and go a step further because there is a lot of public scrutiny placed on my work. Hopefully, this will serve more as a challenge and incentive to do better, ‘cooler’ stuff,” Ayson added.

4. Fernando Contreras

Fernando Contreras or J.R. as he is fondly called, is an avid fan of long-distance running. “I used to run marathons. The hardest race I did was a 42-Km race… I barely survived.” Unofficially retired from the sport, he has traded-in his running shoes for a pair of less comfortable leather moccasins, and his jersey for a business suit. Though 

feeling stiffer now than during his marat5hon days, he professes that the race he is running right now is much harder, faster and farther. “My sport right now is I.T., and my specialty is the Internet,” he said.

Compared to his running, Contreras’ achievements in the industry have been far from a survival story. Among these are being a founding member and active officer of the Philippine Internet Service Organization (PISO) where he was voted into the board of trustees and as secretary in 1996 and 1998. He was elected as chairman of the local organizing committee for last year’s Asia Pacific Regional Internet Conference on Operational Technologies (APRICOT) where he currently serves as a member of the advisory committee. He was also one of the two first Philippine members of the Asia Pacific Network Information Center (APNIC). Currently, he is the general manager and co-founder (together with Miguel Paraz) of IPhil Communications Network, Inc., which claims as the only corporate- specific Internet Service Provider in the country today, Asked on how he viewed the Internet race in the country, Contreras said it is still in a very young age. “Development in local content and infrastructure is very important, and the realization on its power and potential is now being seen by most people.”

On his view on the Internet’s future, he has his sights set on the digital/wired boom everyone is expecting as we enter the next millenium. “During the last industrial revolution we were obviously left behind. I think now is the time that we catch up with the rest of the world and be in the forefront of this digital revolution.”

5. Joel Disini

Joel Disini used to work in Silicon Valley doing networking- and communications-related work. After 9 years in the US, he came to the Philippines in 1989 and is currently the President of the E-Mail Company, one of the first Internet Service Providers in the country.

He feels that his greatest contribution to the industry is reaching through the remote places in the country. “We even had Internet access from a Smart Cellphone at the foot of Mt. Kitanglad about 4 years back. Prior to that we were doing Internet access in remote locations via packet-radio. This was used in the early 90s for packet-radio to packet-satellite gateways,” Disini says.

Disini is known for managing the PH domain. He pointed out, however, the disparity between having the “rights” and “responsibility”. “Rights is something you have when you charge $50 year per domain and register 2M domains and go public, which is what NSI did. Responsibility is when you charge P900 lifetime per domain, run at a loss for 7 years, and have to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous nameservers.”

His dreams, for a start, concern getting the government to put their financial books online. “This way, the press and concerned citizens would be the watchdogs to ensure that a clean and honest government,” Disini said.

“This sort of openness in finances is a logical evolution in governmental policy, and will probably be implemented first in the US or Europe.”

He believes that technology will make the government system more efficient, making even online voting possible. “Good government is our birthright, and it should happen in our lifetime. In the last election, the uninformed masses elected a president primarily because of his on-screen persona. In the next millenium, informed special interest groups may be able to wield enough power to anoint the next president primarily on his inline platform.”

6. Willy Gan

Willy Gan is one of the first movers and implementors of the Internet in the Philippines. His actions coupled with that of other key IT leaders sparked the flame that started the Internet revolution here. Gan is on of the founding memebers of PHNet and chairperson of Mosaic Communications, the first commercial ISP in the Philippines.

Gan relates that in late 1993, he was involved in the planning, designing and setting up here of PHNet, the first ever Philippine academic network that resides in the Internet. A lot of IT people know that PHNet was the first project to leverage on the Internet for its members to communicate among themselves. His involvement, together with IT luminaries such as Rodolfo Villarica, Dr. William Torres and the others paved the way for both government and private sectors to look more into the possibility of using the Internet to enhance communication. Seeing that the Internet could do so much more, Gan together with William Torres, established the first commercial ISP in mid 1994 and christened it Mosaic Communications. Gan told the Web that they established Mosaic or Mozcom to create the information superhighway in the Philippines. “Since we have the networking knowhow, it was the natural thing for us to do,” says Gan. Their action and the success of Mozcom fueled the entrepreneurial spirit of Filipino businessmen to go on providing Internet access themselves. There are now more than 120 Internet service providers in the Philippines.

Gan says that the Internet is the only one aspect of the goal of creating an internetwork. “We would like to see more usage of our network in general communication such as voice and video for corporate use. In the future, the current data network will eventually dominate all network usage including that of the traditional voice network,”

7. Ken Ilio

Ken Ilio is known as a Web pioneer, having created the content for the Philippine community since 1994, specifically the multi- awarded mega-site Tribung Pinoy (http://www.tribo.org), and the first Philippine Web directory, Tanikalang Ginto (http://www.filipinolinks.com). Ilio actually works as a urologist at Chicago’s Northwestern University Medical School. It’s a wonder he was able to put up so much content doing this alone and on a part-time basis – Ilio himself searches high and low for anything related to the Philippines. He has done a project for PBS called Shattering the Silences and has since designed web pages for Filipino artists and photographers like Santiago Bose, Larry Alcala, and Ronald Soliman.

Long before Filipino surfers logged on to Yehey and EDSA, they were already checking out Tanikalang Ginto to look for Filipino-related Web sites. To this date, it has remained one of the most comprehensive Filipino Web directory. He was also since 1995 giving out his Sigay icon award to the best site of the day. The directory is the Yahoo of Pinoys – it was there at the infancy of Philippine Web content. In this sense, Ilio has helped promote Filipino Web sites. Just as important, he helped create a Filipino community on the Net. He speaks of the Filipino diaspora throughout his site. Filipinos who were brought up abroad find solace in the pages of Tribung Pinoy, which is littered with all aspects of Filipino culture – his popular sections are The Filipino Gallery and The Filipino Cuisine.

Since the early days of the legendary soc.culture.filipino newsgroup, which inspired his sites, Ilio already understood the importance of creating a community of cyber Pinoys. Having established content and community successfully, he plans to moce on to the next wave – e-commerce. His site is an affiliate of Amazon.com and CDNow, and has set up Made in the Philippines (http://www.madeinthephilippines.com), his own online store.

8. William Padolina

William Padolina, Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology, is a man of exceptional vision who sees clearly the whole socio-economic panorama unfolding and understands the implications of the crests and troughs in the pre- millenium landscape.

Since 1996, Padolina has been telling everyone how technology management will play a role for global competitiveness. His aggressive campaign has helped technology and Internet awareness in the government sector. He encouraged collaboration on the part of the government, private sector, and academe to push for the growth of the Internet and be one of the tools for the Philippines to become globally competitive.

During the International Conference on the Development of Information Infrastructure in 1996, he was already raising the issue and challenge on the social and legal aspects of digital information and electronics media.

Padolina wants the Internet user base to be broadened and make it truly mass-based, producing world-class students that know the value of information. His biggest achievement is giving specific directions on what the private sector should do in order to achieve growth for the Internet and e-commerce. In a talk at the ICE Manila ’98, he said, “The task of making the information network in the region is truly enormous. But these should not serve as a hindrance towards achieving the ultimate goal of the infrastructure that we are struggling to build: to empower the majority, if not to every citizen of the Asia Pacific region and making a significant difference in his life through access to strategic information.”

“We need Filipinos to be highly literate in science and technology, not only because it is a requirement for global competitiveness, but also because we need to equip them with the faculties necessary to understand socio-cultural, political, and economic environments of the coming century. Without this literacy, our people will become easy prey for our competitors that do not hesitate to take advantage of our ignorance

Congressman Jun Verceles is one of the younger members of the Philippine House of Representatives. He first won a Congressional seat in 1992, when he was 35 years old, and is now on his second term in the lone district of Catanduanes.

Verceles, known as the resident “geek” in Congress, has earned a reputation as the leading advocate of technological advancement. “I would like to adopt cutting-edge technology to accelerate the development process. To leapfrog into the global tomorrow, we’ve got to have that cutting-edge technology and stay a step ahead of the rest,” he explains on his homepage.

Padolina wants the Internet user base to be broadened and make it truly mass-based, producing world-class students that know the value of information. His biggest achievement is giving specific directions on what the private sector should do in order to achieve growth for the Internet and e-commerce. In a talk at the ICE Manila ’98, he said, “The task of making the information network in the region is truly enormous. But these should not serve as a hindrance 

towards achieving the ultimate goal of the infrastructure that we are struggling to build: to empower the majority, if not to every citizen of the Asia Pacific region and making a significant difference in his life through access to strategic information.”

“We need Filipinos to be highly literate in science and technology, not only because it is a requirement for global competitiveness, but also because we need to equip them with the faculties necessary to understand socio-cultural, political, and economic environments of the coming century. Without this literacy, our people will become easy prey for our competitors that do not hesitate to take advantage of our ignorance.”

9. Leandro Verceles Jr.

Congressman Jun Verceles is one of the younger members of the Philippine House of Representatives. He first won a Congressional seat in 1992, when he was 35 years old, and is now on his second term in the lone district of Catanduanes.

Verceles, known as the resident “geek” in Congress, has earned a reputation as the leading advocate of technological advancement. “I would like to adopt cutting-edge technology to accelerate the development process. To leapfrog into the global tomorrow, we’ve got to have that cutting-edge technology and stay a step ahead of the rest,” he explains on his homepage.

Congressman Jun Verceles is one of the younger members of the Philippine House of Representatives. He first won a Congressional seat in 1992, when he was 35 years old, and is now on his second term in the lone district of Catanduanes.

Verceles, known as the resident “geek” in Congress, has earned a reputation as the leading advocate of technological advancement. “I would like to adopt cutting-edge technology to accelerate the development process. To leapfrog into the global tomorrow, we’ve got to have that cutting-edge technology and stay a step ahead of the rest,” he explains on his homepage.

He launched in December 1996 the Catanduanes Internet Network (CATNET), the testbed of the RP Government Information Sharing Technology Network or GISTNET. That same year, he proposed to establish a government intranet using the Internet to electronically network the entire Philippine government. Dubbed RPWEB, the Verceles strategy calls for the link-up through local Internet exchanges or network access points of more than 12,000 government offices, local government units and schools nationwide. House Resolution No. 890 was approved by former President Ramos as Administrative Order No. 332. Adoption by government offices is still slow, and Verceles in an interview with Computerworld acknowledged that there’s “an opportunity for improvement.”

“The idea here is to let information technology empower the people. By informing the event of humanity occuring outside their immediate communities, we enable them to become discerning, critical and responsible citizens. This heightened awareness will spur them into action and ultimately allow them to take control of their own destiny,” says Verceles.

10. Dr. Rodulfo Villarica

Dr. Rodolfo Villarica is the founding president of PHNet, Inc. (Philippine Network Foundation), a consortium of institutions which established and operates the Philippine-wide area computer network with access to Internet called PHNet.

Villarica was instrumental in building the infrastructure that allowed the country to have access to the Internet. PHNet was created in 1993 with the support of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Industrial Research Foundation (IRF). Phase 1 linked the DOST, Ateneo de Manila University, De la Salle University, and UP Diliman. The coverage later was enlarged to 10 members, with 64 Kbps leased line connections set up among its members and full access to the Internet established to the US. PHNet has since grown considerably to include over 50 different organizations in the major cities in the Philippines.

Villarica’s vision, and that of PHNet, is expressed on the PHNet Web site: “PHNet envisions a Philippine Information Superhighway, operating around several national backbones (i.e., one for government, one for schools, and one for commercial establishments). While each is dedicated to its specific purpose, all will be interconnected to one another for immediate access from within our geographic boundaries.”

“We see this superhighway linking to the world via a number of international gateway routes: an ASEAN-wide loop to connect all the members within the region, independent connections to the US via existing telecom companies which will most likely join the Internet bandwagon, leading ISPs with wide bandwidths and PHNet’s multiple-wide bandwidth connections.”

“PHNet’s mission is to provide Internet access to 2000 schools by the year 2000 with the best Internet infrastructure at the lowest possible cost. Using the Internet as an educational tool and resource in upgrading the Philippine human resource development to global competitiveness constitute PHNet’s major contribution to the country’s IT sector growth.”

Articles taken from: WIRED! Philippines