Giants in History: María Orosa

Fighting for her country against hunger 

María Orosa (29 November 1892 - 13 February 1945)


Filipina chemist María Orosa (29 November 1892–13 February 1945) fought malnutrition and food insecurity in the Philippines by devising over 700 culinary creations including Soyalac, a nutrient rich drink made from soybeans, and Darak, rice cookies packed with Vitamin B1, which could prevent beriberi disease caused by Vitamin B1 deficiency. She was also a partisan of the guerrilla movement resisting Japanese occupation during World War II, and died after being struck by shrapnel while working in her laboratory during the Battle of Manila. Orosa completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in pharmaceutical chemistry, along with a Bachelor’s degree in food chemistry, at the University of Washington. In addition to putting her training to work by creating enriched foods, she also invented an iconic banana ketchup made from banana, sugar, vinegar and spices. During World War II, she devised a process for canning food, which helped the Philippines become self-sufficient. Her multiple food innovations reduced the reliance of the Philippines on foreign imports and helped to save the lives of thousands of Filipinos during the war. ( Photo courtesy of the Orosa family)

University of Washington