Banana Ketchup and Maria Orosa, a Taal scientist who invented it


My son texted me one night before coming home and asked if we had fries. I said I only had sweet potato fries in the freezer and he told me to cook it. I did. I thought he would make hamburger for dinner. He came home with this ketchup looking bottle and said he went to an Asian food store. He wanted fries with his new-found ketchup. It was not ketchup at all but tasted like one. It is called Banana sauce. Some Filipinos called it Banana Catsup.

I did not know they can make ketchup from bananas so I did a research on it.

Now, if you are from Batangas, you ought to be proud of what I discovered. Banana ketchup was invented by Maria Ylagan Orosa, a food technologist and pharmaceutical chemist from Taal, Batangas in the Philippines.


Photo credit – Wikimedia

At the Historical Park, Batangas Provincial Capitol Complex

Maria Orosa was born on Nov. 29, 1893, the fourth child of Simplicio Orosa y Agoncillo and the former Juliana Ylagan of Taal, Batangas. In 1915, she studied at the University of the Philippines College of Pharmacy. A year later, she left the country to study at the University of Seattle as a government scholar. There, she first earned a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Chemistry in 1917, following this up one year later with a degree in Food Chemistry. In 1920, she obtained a degree in Pharmacy and followed this up one year later with a master’s degree in the same field. She worked as assistant to the dean of the college of pharmacy on regular semesters and worked in a cannery during the summer. Because of her impressive academic records, she was appointed assistant chemist in the State of Washington upon graduation but opted to return to the Philippines.

Returning to the Philippines in 1922, she initially taught Home Economics at the Centro Escolar University. The following year, she would transfer to the Bureau of Science to work as a chemist and later organize the bureau’s food preservation division. In 1928, the government sent her abroad to study food processing and canning technology in several countries. By 1933, she was appointed head of the bureau’s Food Preservation Division. In 1941, she founded the Homemakers’ Association of the Philippines.

During World War II, Orosa joined a guerilla group called the Marking’s Guerillas. She was given the rank of captain and her job included feeding Soyalac to Allied prisoners of war in concentration camps, hospitals, including the American internees at the University of Santo Tomas and other religious communities where many prisoners have perished from malnutrition. Soyalac was a high protein concoction she had developed from soya milk.

Due to a tomato shortage in the islands brought on by the onset of WWII, Orosa created Banana Ketchup in 1942. Looking for a cheap and stable alternative, bananas topped the list because the supplies were plenty.

She was also responsible for the development of calamansi (calamondin, a Philippine lime) juice. She created processes for the creation of Filipino wines from cashew and guava. She found a way to create vinegar from pineapple and jelly from guava, cottonfruit (santol), mango and other fruits. She developed banana starch and flour from banana and cassava.

Orosa was just 52 years old when she was hit by shrapnel in 1945 during the liberation of Manila by Allied Forces. Typical of her, she was performing her duties at the Bureau of Plant Industries building when a bomb exploded close by. Colleagues were still able to rush her to a nearby hospital, but unfortunately the hospital itself was bombed while she was being treated. She was hit again by shrapnel and died on Feb. 13, 1945.

Banana ketchup was first mass produced for commercial consumption by a company founded by Magdalo V. Francisco, from whose name the brand Mafran was created. Jufran, picture above, was taken from the nickname of Francisco’s son, Magdalo Jr. or “Jun”.

Today, banana ketchup is more popular than tomato ketchup in the Philippines because it is cheaper to produce. Many fast food restaurants use it because of the price. It is now the preferred sauce at home and not just for dips but also to flavor spaghetti and other dishes. They are also used as a barbecue marinade.

Banana is the main ingredient in Banana Catsup. Sugar and spices are added for flavoring. To make it red, artificial food colorings are added. The real color of banana Catsup is brown. It does not have a taste of banana at all. It tastes like regular ketchup only a little bit sweeter.

Banana Ketchup is a proud Filipino product. It actually tastes good but some reviews stated to be a bit wary of those artificial colorings to make it red. But then we also use artificial colorings for some of the cakes and cookies that we bake like red and green for Christmas, pastel colors for Easter, green color for St. Patrick’s Day, orange and black for Halloween. So what are we talking here?

C’est la vie! I say Mabuhay.







Until next time. Stop and Smell the Roses

Rosalinda Morgan




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