The critical thinker, curator, author, and historian will always spark a lively and intelligent conversation.
You can’t put Marian Pastor Roces in a box. She’ll likely speak her way out of it. She wears several hats: curator, critical thinker, policy analyst. With a clear and expressive voice, she tackles every conversation with analytic prose, requiring attention. You realize she isn’t playing devil’s advocate, rather she is thinking critically about the questions pitched to her.
Her responses always come from a rock-solid base, her thorough training in criticism. Explaining an international conference on beauty that she convened, she qualifies that it was not held within the field called culture. “We had to take up the operations of beauty in the political, historical, and economic fields to mount a robust critique,” Marian says.
Over the last half century, Marian’s accomplishments span the entire nation to beyond our shores. She curated and often created, from the ground up, such museums as the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Museo ng Kaalamáng Katutubò; 21AM, the CCP’s online museum; the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design at the College of St. Benilde; the University of the Philippines Manila’s Museum; the Yuchengco Museum; Chinabank Museum; and the Bangsamoro Museum in BARMM. She also co-created the Philippine Pavilions for World Expos in Aichi, Japan and Zaragoza, Spain, and the Philippine Pavilion at World Expo Dubai.
Last June, she was the only keynote speaker in an exclusive group of museums called the Bizot group, or The International Group of Organizers of Major Exhibitions. (The directors of the Louvre, the Met, MoMA, the Rijksmuseum, and other museums of scale attended.) “I was allowed a collective listening ear,” she says of the event. “My views on the challenges faced by museums in relation to the world’s catastrophes are known well enough. But I deeply appreciated the stage to speak, to action the agenda being considered globally, right now.”
The writer, director, and dramaturg Rustom Barucha wrote the introduction to Marian’s anthology, Gathering: Political Writing on Art and Culture. “Earlier I had mentioned that the commitment to critique is what holds the disparate contexts of this book together. But this critique, in turn, would not hold without the chemistry of an intricately constructed ‘voice’: Roces is talking to us, with us, and back to us,” he says.
And this rich flow of dialogue is evident in everything from ancestral headhunting practices to definitions of beauty today. “Beauty was correctly junked in the postcolonial turn, about half a century ago, because of its [implication] in various fascisms,” she says, adding that there is still space for beauty today if we “now outgrow the Humanities’ ‘the true, the good and the beautiful’—to perhaps recognize how it was used by unjust systems for centuries—then there could be beauty for this century. Maybe.” She continues: “When or if ecosystems are constructed well, with component narratives, materials, relationships all crafted carefully to escape our current prisons of the mind, perhaps.”
She gives no final answers, the woman who thinks all pat formulations are suspect and too simple. This is what Pastor does to her readers and those who speak with her. She makes you think. It’s not about what can be said about Marian Pastor Roces, but what Marian Pastor Roces can say about thinking itself.
Meet The Ladies Who Launch
In thoroughly exploring their passions, honing their skills, and continuing to be beacons who inspire a whole nation, these five women show a life well-crafted and well-lived.
According to the World Economic Forum Report Global Gender Gap Report from June 2023, the Philippines, New Zealand, and Australia have the highest gender parity among East Asian and Pacific countries. If young Filipinas today have an edge, no doubt that this was carved out by the many trailblazing women who came before. Heroines in their own right, these revolutionaries are educators, scholars, writers, and artists.
Here, we pay tribute to five pioneering women who have paved the way and showed us how to live a meaningful life. They are our national treasures. Literally, too, as Alice Reyes is a National Artist for Dance and Dolores Ramirez is a National Scientist.
These women traversed challenging waters and anchored themselves on the world stage. They achieved tremendous milestones over 250 years combined, in the fields of Culture, the Arts, and the Sciences, helping shape Philippine society and influencing future leaders for generations to come.
By Ria De Borja. Photographs by Artu Nepomuceno. Beauty Editor: Joyce Oreña. Fashion Director: Pam Quiñones. Makeup: Gery Peñaso of M.A.C Cosmetics, Ting Duque. Hair: JA Feliciano, Mong Amado. Art Director: Jann Pascua. Production Design: Justine Arcega-Bumanlag. Producer: Bianca Zaragoza, Anz Hizon. Multimedia Artists: Gabbi Constantino, Tinkerbell Poblete. Production Assistant: Zofia Agama. Photographer’s Assistants: Choi Narciso, Jordon Estrada. Stylist’s Assistant: Ticia Almazan. Production Design Assistants: Gabrielle Mantala, Geber Cunanan, Jan Abal, Olderico Bondoc. Makeup Assistants: Charisma Contaoi, Leilani Samson, Lorrine Villamayor. Interns: Jean-Jacques Girod- Roux, Sophia Lanawan.