Maria Y. Orosa worked hard to improve the health of our people. She studied how to preserve different kinds of food in a scientific way. She taught people how to preserve food and fruits in cans for home use and for export. She is remembered and honored for her work in food preservation.
Maria Y. Orosa was born in Taal, Batangas on November 29, 1893. Her parents were Simplicio Agoncillo Orosa and Juliana Ylagan. She had seven brothers and sisters.
Maria studied in the public schools of Batangas. In 1915 she enrolled in the University of the Philippines to study pharmacy. She was not able, however, to finish the course in Manila. She was sent to the United States by the government to continue her studies. She finished her pharmacy course in America in 1918. Then she studied food chemistry.
While studying in the United States, Maria had to work in order to have enough money for her expenses. She washed dishes in the restaurants, scrubbed floors, picked fruits, and worked in canning factories. The United States government paid only part of her expenses.
Teaching Food Preservation
Maria returned to the Philippines in 1922. Upon her return she taught home economics in the Centro Escolar University. Then in 1923 she transferred to the Bureau of Science.
It was in this Bureau that she worked out different methods of preserving fruits, foods, and fruit juices. She also found a way to make darak edible. Darak is a valuable food element that can help cure patients suffering from beri-beri.
With her helpers Maria then taught many housewives how to preserve such native foods as adobo, mechado, dinuguan, and to convert our fruits as guavas, mangoes into jelly. Maria gave lectures on food preservation in the provinces.
Maria Improves Her Work
When the government saw her excellent work, Maria Orosa was sent back to America in 1928 as a scholar. She was asked to study the best methods of food preservation. After studying again in the United States, she visited China, Hawaii, Holland, England, Germany, Spain, Italy, and France to observe their ways of preserving foods.
After her return in 1929, Maria devoted her time to teaching home making to other women. She encouraged them to form rural improvement clubs. The purposes of these clubs were:
1. To learn and teach home making.
2. To learn and teach child care.
3. To learn and teach meal planning.
4. To learn and teach food preparation and preservation.
5. To learn and teach poultry raising.
6. To learn and teach gardening.
Maria worked hard to organize such clubs all over the country. She had organized 537 clubs by 1941.
Maria encouraged the members to engage in home industries such as making slippers, rugs, and baskets.
Maria hoped that through her work she would improve the health of mothers and children of the country. She also believed that homes with gardens would be better places to live in.
Maria’s Work in World War II
World War II came. Everyone suffered, for food became scarce. Maria Orosa’s food preservation became noble work. The food that she canned were sent to many American prisoners in Capas, Los Banos, Dao, and Santo Tomas.
She made demijohns of fruit juice from calamansi. She sent the fruit juice to the prisoners so that they could have their vitamins. In this way Maria saved the lives of hundreds of prisoners. Throughout the war, Maria worked on without fear and without stopping.
During the fighting in Manila in 1945, Maria was at work at the Bureau of Plant Industry in San Andres. She was hit by shrapnel during the bombing. Her friends rushed her to the Remedios Hospital in Malate. Then the hospital itself was hit by bombs. The bombs killed Maria and other patients.
By the death of Maria Orosa, the country lost a woman who had devoted all her life to the service of the people. One of the buildings of the Bureau of Plants Industry where she worked has been named after her. It is called the Maria Y. Orosa building.
The great work which Maria Orosa started goes on today. Many people whom she trained and taught carry on the work of improving the life of the common people.