It is with great sadness that we, the Department of Art Studies (DAS) at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, have learned of the passing of Prof. Aurora Roxas-Lim today, 16 November 2020, at the age of 84.
Prof. Roxas-Lim, who was teacher, colleague, mentor, and friend to a number of us, was one of the pioneering faculty members of the academic unit that is known today as the DAS. When she joined the unit, then called the Discipline of Humanities, it was a newly created offshoot of the three-way split of the English Department that was mandated in June 1959. The incipient unit, at the time, owed much to the pedagogical and theoretical approaches to the humanities that were practiced at the University of Chicago, and Prof. Roxas-Lim, having recently completed her master’s degree at the said institution, was a pivotal figure in the mediation of such approaches.
She pursued further studies in Southeast Asian art and archaeology at Cornell University from 1967 to 1971, and in 1984, which informed her work as a faculty member of the Asian Center, UP Diliman, from 1972 to 1999; she served as Dean from 1994 to 1997. Following her retirement from UP Diliman, she lectured at the DAS and for the Chinese Studies Program at Ateneo de Manila University.
Prof. Roxas-Lim was the curator of the Jorge B. Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center from 1988 to 1994, and played an active role in several other cultural institutions, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization; the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization; the National Commission for Culture and the Arts; and the Philippine Association of Chinese Studies. On the basis of her extensive research, both at home and abroad, she published several texts dealing with art and archaeology, notably the monograph The Evidence of Ceramics as an Aid in Understanding the Pattern of Trade in the Philippines and Southeast Asia (1987) and the book Southeast Asian Art and Culture: Ideas, Forms, and Societies (2005).
Over the course of her career, Prof. Roxas-Lim emphasized the primacy of direct perception and experience in the study of art, while also recognizing the need to flesh out socio-historical context, employ interdisciplinary perspectives, and insist on the role that art plays in the betterment of Philippine society. She believed in giving back to the country, even if success is not assured. In a reflection regarding Guillermo Tolentino’s Oblation, on the occasion of UP’s centennial in 2008, she wrote, “[Despite] all the uncertainties, it is the determination in search of truth, courage, and moral integrity in all our undertakings that counts as our reward.”
We extend our deepest sympathies to Prof. Roxas-Lim’s bereaved family and friends.