Samuel K. Tan

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To read this article in Filipino, see Samuel K. Tan

Samuel K. Tan (30 December 1933- 6 January 2022) was a historian and academician and former chair of the Department of History of the University of the Philippines (UP) and former chair of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP). He was the leading expert on the role and contribution of Filipino Muslims to the country’s history. He left behind a legacy of scholarly works, books, and writings on the history of the Philippines especially of the Muslim South.

Early Life and Education

He was born on 30 December 1933 in Siasi, Sulu. He completed his primary education at the Jolo Tong Jin School in 1949 and his secondary education at the Zamboanga City High School in 1953, both as valedictorian. He earned his AB degree in history, summa cum laude, at the Zamboanga A.E. College in 1963. He earned his MA in history from UP in 1967 and his Ph.D. in Social Science from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs from Syracuse University in 1973.


Dr. Tan taught at the UP Department of History from 1963 to 1994 and trained and mentored generations of historians and history educators. He served as the department chair from 1977 to 1982. During his time, promoted research on local and oral history that led to the launching of the International Conference on Oral and Local History in UP Diliman in 1979. The Asian Festival was also launched under his term. He also served as director and convenor of the Mindanao Studies Program of the UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies from 1994 to 2002.

He was a Research Fellow and Consultant of the Tadhana Special Research Project under the Office of the President from 1974 to 1985; Consultant for the Region IX Commission in 1976; Consultant of Senator Santanina T. Rasul from 1987 to 1992; Consultant of Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA) Administrator Almarin C. Tillah in 1999; and of Congressman Nur G. Jaafar from 2001 to 2002.

He was also Chairman-Executive Director of the National Historical Institute (NHI) and Commissioner of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) from 1997 to 1998; Commissioner of the National Centennial Commission from 1997 to 1999; Research Fellow, coordinator, and Consultant of the Regional Histories Project of the National Library from 1981 to 1983; and Consultant for History and Culture of the SPDA.

Dr. Tan was a lecturer in various academic institutions such as the National Defense College of the Philippines, the Development Academy of the Philippines, Sophia University, Silsilah Dialogue Institute, De la Salle University, and Mindanao State University.


Dr. Tan authored more than 20 books including the following:

  • The Muslim Armed Struggle in the Philippines, 1900-1941 (1973)
  • A History of the Philippines (1987)
  • Decolonization and Filipino Muslim Identity (1989)
  • Internationalization of the Bangsamoro Struggle (1993)
  • The Critical Decade, 1921-1930 (1993)
  • The Socio-Economic Dimension Of Moro Secessionism (1995)
  • Annotated Bibliography of Jawi Materials of the Muslim South (1996)
  • The Filipino-American War, 1899-1913 (2002)
  • Filipino Muslim Perceptions of their History and Culture (2003)
  • Surat Sug: Letters of the Sultanate of Sulu (2005)
  • Ferdinand E. Marcos and the Filipino Military Tradition (2006)
  • The Muslim South and Beyond (2010)

Awards and Recognition

  • Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship (1970-1973)
  • Chairman’s Award of Region IX Commission for outstanding achievements and service (1980)
  • UP Professorial Chair for History (1988)
  • Fulbright Hays Research Grant (1984)
  • Ford-Rockefeller Grant (1993)
  • Chiang Ching Kua Foundation Research Grant (1995)
  • UP Alumni Association Outstanding Award for History (1998)
  • NHI Distinguished Service Award (1998)
  • NCCA Distinguished Commissioner Award (1999)
  • Toyota Foundation Research Grant (2002)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award for History, PNHS (2020)


On 6 January 2022, Dr. Tan succumbed to COVID-19, exactly a week after he turned 88. He also had comorbidities: he was a diabetic and had a cardiovascular disease. He passed away peacefully in the presence of family. He is survived by his three children, eight grandchildren, and five great grandchildren.




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