Three years before the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution, Maria Ylagan Orosa was born on November 29, 1893, in Taal Batangas. Throughout her life, she became both a spectator and a participant on the different major historical events that shaped the history of the Philippines. After the revolution against the Spanish colonial government, she saw the Filipino people in their battle against the new colonizers — the Americans. Her father acquired a role in the Philippine Commission and campaigned for Philippine Independence.
Despite these external factors that may have affected her formative years, Maria grew up with an intelligent mind. She went to the University of the Philippines where the Americans admired her for her talent and ideas. Eventually the recognition she received paved the way for her to pursue her education abroad. She was sent to Seattle to study pharmaceutical chemistry, and would, later on, earn a degree in food chemistry in 1918. And in 1921 a master’s degree in pharmacy. After fulfilling her studies, she went back to the Philippines but was often sent to various international countries as they seek her help and expertise in the field. Her specialty in the field of chemistry and food chemistry has led her to the invention of different nutritious foods such as the calamansi juice powder, banana ketchup, and the soyalac, a protein-rich powdered soybean product.
Not known to many, Maria did not only spend her life as a chemist and an inventor. She was also an unsung hero who played a major role during the Second World War in the Philippines. She participated in the guerilla movement as she joined the Marking’s guerilla with a rank of Captain. She used her expertise in the field of chemistry to help the Filipino-American forces as she was responsible for the collection and supplying the Filipino captives with their essentials, especially food. Soyalac was of great help for people who were dying due to malnutrition and starvation. Unfortunately, during the Battle of Manila, the country lost its scientist when Maria was hit due to the series of bombardments in the area. Finally, a marker was established, and a road was named after her to honor her heroic deed.
Mario Alvaro. “Maria Orosa: The War Hero Who Invented Banana Ketchup,” January 1, 1970. https://www.esquiremag.ph/long-reads/maria-orosa-the-war-hero-who-invented-banana-ketchup-a00293-20191109.
Lugtu, Kay Calpo. “Maria Orosa: Still Relevant After 75 years,” May 7, 2020. https://www.manilatimes.net/2020/05/07/business/columnists business/maria-orosa-still-relevant-after-75-years/723183/.
Rampe, Amelia. “Meet the War Hero Who Uplifted the Philippines through Food Innovation,” November 29, 2019. https://theweek.com/articles/877132/meet-war-hero-who-uplifted-philippines-through-food-innovation.
Research by: Justine M. Arguelles