Who would have thought that the woman clad in a simple blouse, jeans, and a pair of sneakers, while smiling sheepishly in front of the camera for a photo shoot, is a multi-awarded scientist/innovator? She crossed rivers, climbed mountains, and would move one if she can, out of her passion to serve and inspire people.
Engr. Aisa Mijeno, inventor of the SAlt (Sustainable Alternative Lighting) Lamp and co-founder and CEO of the company under the same name, has a new feather to her already decorated cap when she was named recently as one of the Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines 2019 for the Science Technology and Engineering-Green Technology category. According to Mijeno, for the past two years, she was rejecting the invitation of JCI Lipa to participate in the nomination process of the prestigious award, as she felt she doesn’t deserve to be even nominated and that what she had accomplished wasn’t enough. But then this year after being convinced and realized the positive effect it could bring to her advocacies she finally said “yes”.
Now in its 60th year, TOYM is under JCI Philippines and co-sponsored by the Philippine Long-Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), Gerry Roxas Foundation Inc. and TOYM Foundation Inc. It seeks to give national recognition to young men and women whose selfless dedication to their profession or vocation has resulted in a significant contribution to the welfare of their countrymen, their country and their fields of endeavor.
A WOMAN WITH A SUBSTANCE
Engr. Aisa Mijeno was the only woman among the roster of awardees that night. Although not a neophyte when it comes to award ceremonies or big events such as the TOYM, she still felt nervous and surreal being recognized among other fellow Filipinos that made a mark on their respective fields, as well as being aware of how huge the responsibilities that come with it.
She never imagined that a simple saline solution to be added on a metal-air battery would bring her to places and open the opportunity for her not just to rub elbows with former US President Barack Obama and Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, but also to be able to talk with them when she was privileged to be invited to the APEC Summit 2015.
Her realization and according to her the ‘culmination of experiences’ she gained from doing volunteer work on rural areas especially during her days in Greenpeace Philippines inspired her to think and create something valuable. She witnessed the life in a rural community which only source of light was the moonlight or the kerosene lamp that emits gases that are toxic to one’s health and the environment. “Naglalakad sila ng 6 hours just to buy gas to light up their kerosene lamps. They do it every other day.” That scenario and the life of the underprivileged people on far-flung areas who have limited access to electricity and other basic needs became the spark that led her to realize the need for an alternative source of light.
Her background and knowledge in fuel cells being an Engineering graduate boost her idea for SAlt. To further research and back up her study she decided to work in her alma mater, De La Salle Lipa as an instructor, and the rest, as they say, is history.
THE GAME-CHANGING INNOVATION
SAlt is an environment-friendly and sustainable alternative light powered by saltwater. With just two tablespoons of salt in a glass of water, the lamp can give light for 8 hours. Not only does it emit minimal carbon footprint, but it is also much safer for health.
Engr. Mijeno explained that the innovation was not the lamp itself but the fuel cell that uses saltwater as its power source. Imagine, a staple ingredient in our kitchen can be used to run a battery to give light to a community.
“To light up the rest of the Philippines sustainably-was my vision and to change the mindset of other Filipino people that instead of using kerosene lamps to provide them light why don’t we switch to a much safer alternative. This isn’t just a product, it is a social movement.”
As she knows that the SALT lamp was a bit pricey to be sold retail here in the Philippines, she decided to release it in Europe and the United States. And for every SAlt lamp bought, one lamp is given to a selected family.
Because of her inspiring vision and game-changing innovation, her lamp has received various recognitions from the country and other parts of the world. And as the most recent one, her name being chosen as one of the catalysts of positive change in the recently concluded TOYM award.
Top Outstanding Young Men awardees this year were: Dr. Marc Paul Jose Lopez, Medicine- Colon and Rectal Surgery; Gerardo Gregorios Francisco Jr., Humanities in Dance; Rep. Alfredo Vargas -Public Service; Glenn Fiel Fernandez, Political and Social Services- Youth Participation Disaster Risk Reduction; Alfonso Tomas Araullo-Journalism and Mass Communication; Dino Carlo Reyes- Tourism; Ziaur-Rahman Alonto Adiong-Government Service; Reynaldo Seville Abellana, Arts and Humanities- Music; PHD Casiano, Jr. Hermopa Choresca, Agricultural Science-Fisheries, and Agriculture.
This year’s TOYM award was held at the Manila Hotel last December 13, 2019.