In Memoriam: Rosalinda Luna Orosa, the Mother of Philippine Arts and Culture | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Rosalinda Orosa
Portrait of Rosalinda Luna Orosa painted in 1976 by Betsy Westendorp de Brias.

The cultural journalist has passed on, leaving a lasting legacy on the landscape of Philippine culture and art



Rosalinda Luna Orosa (1923-2023) was a luminary whose life threaded into an intricate tapestry of culture and art in the Philippines. The celebrated journalist was renowned for her critiques in theater and music. Her keen ear for music, thoughtful eye for the arts, and razor-sharp wit culminated in writing characterized by old-world style, elegance, and sophistication. 


Early life and literary lineage

Born to Dr. Sixto Ylagan Orosa Sr. and Dr. Severina Luna, Rosalinda hailed from a family steeped in literary and cultural pursuits. Her parents served as pioneering Christian missionary doctors, staying among the Islamic communities of Sulu despite imminent danger at the time. Her father was hailed as the “Father of Provincial Hospital Law,” having established 17 public hospitals throughout the country, while her mother founded the Kababaihang Rizalista, the female counterpart of the Knights of Rizal. Both parents displayed their literary talents, writing multiple books and essays on Rizal.

Rosalinda Orosa
Dr. Severina Luna de Orosa (left) and her husband Dr. Sixto Y Orosa (sitting right) with 3 of their children in 1920

Beyond medicine and literature, her family has made great national contributions. Rosalinda is a niece of the famed Maria Orosa, her father’s youngest sister. Maria Orosa is acclaimed as a pioneer food technologist, who introduced food preservation, canning, and banana ketchup while serving during WWII and saving thousands of lives. She is also sister to Leonor Orosa Goquingco, celebrated as a National Artist for Dance, lauded for her contributions to folk dance stylization in the country. Meanwhile, Rosalinda’s oldest brother Sixto Jr. was esteemed as a highly effectual Governor of the Central Bank. She is survived by her niece Ria Prieto, lifestyle editor and modern maverick of the industry.

Ria reflects on Rosalinda, “Because she never married she was really like a grandmother to us in every way. So in that aspect, she was such an integral part of our family. She was truly like the second mom of our parents.”

While never having had a child of her own, Rosalinda nurtured the arts in the Philippines, from music, theater, visual arts, and dance. 


Penning the country’s cultural narrative

“Rosalinda Orosa” was a regularly-read byline in the newspapers of the country. She was a veteran writer for The Philippine STAR, The Philippines Daily Express, Manila Chronicle, and later The Manila Times with a weekly column “Encore” for The Sunday Times Magazine. 

But before this, she already had precocious beginnings. At the tender age of 14, she entered the University of the Philippines to major in English Literature. After her degree, she received a Julia George Fellowship for Oriental Women at Harvard University’s Radcliffe College, where she finished another post-graduate degree in English Literature.

Rosalinda Orosa
“Turning Back the Pages” (2011) laudes Spain’s legacy in a compilation of her music reviews, light essays, and profiles, short stories, poems, and light verses.

Fresh out of school, Rosalinda started her journey to the top of the literary ladder as a proofreader at the Manila Chronicle. About half a year later a position opened up in editorial, and she went for it. Soon, she became one of the youngest columnists of her generation.

An established writer of multiple creative forms, Rosalinda is known in particular for her nuanced reviews of music. She said, “Me dedíco a la musica (I have dedicated myself to music).” She held a special love for the finer points of song. With her intimate understanding of the operatic greats to the timbers of each voice and instrument, she elevated the practice of music critique in the Philippines. 


Journalistic awards

The escritora, periodista, y crítica artística (writer, journalist, and artistic critic), received the Premio Zobel (1989), along with her parents, a Philippine literary award conferred on Filipino writers in the Spanish language. This was just one of her many awards: 

Abroad, she was named Woman of the Year by The International Biographical Center of Cambridge in England (2000). She received the Cross of Merit from the Government of Germany (2001), and the Order of Merit from the Government of France (2001).

In the Philippines, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award (2005), given to thirty exceptional women by former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. She was also among the first winners of the Primer Premio de Periodismo Quijano de Manila (1st Quijano de Manila Journalism Award) by Instituto Cervantes in 2007 for her piece, “A Treatise for Spanish,” published in Starweek magazine. 

Rosalinda Orosa
“Above The Throng: Portraits & Profiles, Sketches & Silhouettes” (1980) compiled interviews and profiles of persons here and abroad, probing into the nuances of personalities, from the likes of President Ferdinand E. Marcos to foreign artists like dancer Dame Margot Fonteyn

Through her journalistic work, she has promoted multiple Filipino artists, such as pianist Cecile Licad, classical singer Aurelio Estanislao, flutist Santiago Yangco, and visual artist Manuel Baldemor, to name a few.

Her sense of authority is reflected worldwide, as she was once a jury member of the King of Spain International Journalism Awards in Spain.


Literary legacy

Beyond editorial, Rosalinda Orosa is known for an expanse of long-form work. Her books include “Tapestry” with essays by none other than the literary greats, two Nationals Artist for Literature, Nick Joaquin, and a foreword by F. Sionil Jose.

In 1980, “Above The Throng: Portraits & Profiles, Sketches & Silhouettes” compiled interviews and profiles of people here and abroad, probing into the nuances of personalities, from the likes of President Ferdinand E. Marcos to foreign artists like Dame Margot Fonteyn. 

Meanwhile, “Turning Back the Pages” (2011) laudes Spain’s legacy in a compilation of her music reviews, light essays, and profiles, short stories, poems, and light verses. 

Rosalinda Orosa
Photo from Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española.

Amidst her contributions and accolades, Rosalinda kept a “gentle, piquant sense of humor,” Her writing reverberates today with a sense of level-headed gusto, and deep understanding of her own craft, and the craft she critiqued.

Throughout the decades, Rosalinda Luna Orosa shaped the cultural vista of the Philippines, honoring its rich history and the tapestry of fine art. 

Her contributions remain etched in the nation’s heritage, while her legacy lives on, cherished by close circles of family and friends who continue to honor and preserve her memory.


“Rosalinda Orosa has seen them all—the great singers of world, the Broadway stage stars, the superb musicians of Europe, and of course, our very own wonderful singers, instrumentalists, actors, and actresses. She has written about them, interviewed them, brought them close to us by humanizing them.”

—F. Sionil Jose, foreword, Tapestry


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