María Orosa

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María Orosa
María Orosa.jpg
María Ylagan Orosa

(1893-11-29)November 29, 1893
DiedFebruary 13, 1945(1945-02-13) (aged 51)
EducationUniversity of the Philippines Manila
University of Washington

María Borosa e Ylagan[1] (November 29, 1893 – February 13, 1945) was a Filipina food technologist, pharmaceutical chemist, humanitarian and war heroine.[2] She experimented with foods native to the Philippines, and during World War II developed Soyalac (from soybeans) and Darak (from rice bran), which she also helped smuggle into Japanese-run internment camps which helped save the lives of thousands of Filipinos, Americans, and other nationals.[3]

Early and family life[edit]

Maria Orosa (Historical Park and Laurel Park, Batangas Provincial Capitol Complex).

Born on November 29, 1893 in Taal, Batangas, Maria Orosa was the fourth child among eight of Simplicio A. Orosa and Juliana Ylagan-Orosa. Although her father died when she was a child (and she helped her mother in the family's general store),[4] many of her siblings also became distinguished in the Philippines. Her elder brother, Engr. Vicente Ylagan Orosa Sr., became Secretary of Public Works and Communications, and later Chairman of the Peoples Homesite and Housing Corporation (PHHC) during the administration of President Ramon Magsaysay. Her brother Dr. Sixto Ylagan Orosa Sr. became a pioneering doctor, and her nieces and nephews included banker Sixto L. Orosa, Jr., Philippine National Artist in Dance Leonor Orosa Goquiñgco, businessman José R. L. Orosa, award-winning cultural journalist Rosalinda L. Orosa, and her biographer Helen Orosa del Rosario.

As a government-sponsored scholar, Orosa earned bachelor's and master's degrees in pharmaceutical chemistry, and an additional degree in food chemistry from the University of Washington.[3] She worked in fish canneries in Alaska during summer breaks from college.


Although offered a job as an assistant chemist by the Washington state government, Orosa returned to the Philippines in 1922. She initially taught home economics at the Centro Escolar University, then transferred to the Philippine Bureau of Science's food preservation division. Orosa wanted to help the Philippines become self-sufficient, as well as to empower Filipino families. She organized 4-H clubs in the islands (which had more than 22,000 members by 1924), as well as traveled into the barrios to teach women how to raise chickens, preserve local produce and plan healthy meals. Orosa invented the palayok oven to enable families without access to electricity to bake, as well as developed recipes for local produce, including cassava, bananas and coconut. Her banana ketchup became a favorite condiment and cooking ingredient in the islands. She also developed wines and calamansi nip, a desiccated and powdered form of a citrus fruit also used to make reconstituted calamansi juice, banana ketchup, and in other recipes. Orosa ultimately became head of the Home Economics Division and organized its Division of Food Preservation. Using both her local and technical knowledge, Orosa also made culinary contributions and taught proper preservation methods for native dishes such as adobo, dinuguan, kilawin and escabeche.

During World War II, Orosa used her food science background to invent Soyalac (a protein-rich powdered soybean product) and Darak (a rice bran powder rich in thiamine and other vitamins which could also treat beri-beri).[3] She also became a captain in Marking's Guerillas, local Filipino forces organized by Marcos "Marking" V. Augustín[5] which helped U.S. forces fight the occupying Japanese troops, including by using carpenters who had inserted Soyalac and Darak into hollowed bamboo sticks which they took to the civilians imprisoned at the University of Santo Tomas in the capital as well as Japanese-run prisoner of war camps in Capas and Corregidor. The powders saved the lives of many starving imprisoned guerillas and U.S. soldiers.[3] Her "Tiki-Tiki" cookies (made using Darak) also saved many civilian lives during wartime food shortages.

Death and legacy[edit]

Although family and friends urged "Tia Maria" to leave Manila for her hometown as American, Filipino and Japanese forces battled to control the city, Orosa refused, insisting that as a soldier she needed to remain at her post. On February 13, 1945, Orosa died of shrapnel wounds after being hit first in her government office during an American bombing raid, then the hospital to which she had been taken was bombed and another shrapnel shard pierced her heart, killing her instantly.[3] The American Red Cross gave Orosa a humanitarian award for her food-smuggling efforts.[4] Her niece Helen Orosa del Rosario in 1970 published Maria Orosa: her life and work, which also included 700 of Orosa's recipes.

The Philippines has officially recognized Orosa's contributions. Her home province Batangas installed a bust and historical marker. A street in Ermita, Manila (where the Philippine Court of Appeals is located), is named after her, as is a building in the Bureau of Plant Industry. During the 65th anniversary of the Institute of Science and Technology, she became one of 19 scientists receiving special recognition. On November 29, 1983, the National Historical Institute installed a marker in her honor at the Bureau of Plant Industry in San Andrés, Manila. In commemoration of her centennial anniversary, the Philippine Postal Corporation issued a postage stamp in her honor. Her hometown of Taal, Batangas also celebrated the 125th anniversary of her birth on November 29, 2018. On 29 November 2019, Google celebrated her 126th birthday with a Google Doodle.[6]

List of works[edit]

  • The history and chemistry of norsphenamine (1921)
  • Preservation of Philippine foods (1926)
  • Rice bran: a health food and how to cook it (1932)
  • Roselle recipes (1931)
  • Soy beans as a component of a balanced diet and how to prepare them (1932)
  • Preserve the national culture in local food (1932)


  1. ^ Y is replaced by e before maternal surnames that begin with /i/ immediately followed by a consonant.
  2. ^ MARIA Y. OROSA (1893–1945). Pioneering Food Technologist and Inventor Archived 4 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 11 October 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e "She Invented Banana Ketchup & Saved Thousands of Lives. Why Have We Never Heard of Her?". Food52. 26 October 2019. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Freedom fighter Maria Y. Orosa and her life-saving 'darak' cookies". Inquirer Lifestyle. September 12, 2018.
  5. ^ "Marcos V. Agustin Marking (1910-Onbekend) - Find A Grave-gedenkplek".
  6. ^ "María Ylagan Orosa's 126th Birthday". Google. 29 November 2019.

Further reading[edit]