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Brief Profile

A medical anthropologist, writer and academic, Tan was appointed 10th Chancellor of UP Diliman (UPD) by the UP Board of Regents at its 1296th meeting on February 27, 2014.

Tan earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from UPD in 1977, a Master of Arts in Anthropology from the Texas A&M University (1982) and a doctoral degree in Anthropology from the Medical Anthropology Unit, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands (1996). 

He holds the rank of Professor 12 and has been with the Department of Anthropology at the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP) since 1984. He chaired the Department for three terms from 2001 to 2010, and was dean of the CSSP from 2010 to 2014, his second term interrupted by his appointment as Chancellor. He continues to teach Anthrolopogy and is also affiliate faculty of the Philippine Studies Tri-College Program and the College of Science. He is also a Clinical Professor of the College of Medicine, UP Manila.

Tan has been active with health non-governmental organizations since 1997 and is known for his work on medicinal plants, pharmaceuticals and public health. He also writes the column “Pinoy Kasi,” twice a week in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
He has numerous journal articles and books, the most recent ones being “Revisiting Usog, Pasma, Kulam (University of the Philippines Press) and “Thinking, Doing Culture” (University of Santo Tomas Press).

He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the De La Salle Scholarum award in 2014, the Rizal Outstanding Chinese-Filipinos Award for Literature and Journalism (Manila Times and Kaisa, 2005), the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas (Best Writing in English from the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (2006), Best Opinion Column from the Catholic Mass Media Award (2007, 2009) and the Takashi Fuji Award for Originality in Social Science Research from the International Federation of Social Sciences Organizations (1997) and the Takashi Fuji Award for Originality in Social Science Research by the International Federation of Social Science Organizations (1997).

In 2012, he was elected to the National Academy of Science and Technology, the country’s highest advisory body on science.

Geographical Areas / Field Sites

Southeast Asia and East Asia 


  • Medecine et croyances populaires” (Medicine and popular beliefs). In: William Gueraiche (ed), Philippines Contemporaines, pp. 497-510. Bangkok: IRASEC (Institut de Recherche Sur l’Asie du Sud-Est Contemporaine) and Paris: Les Indes Savantes. (2013)
  • Making and Unmaking a Culture of Impunity: Anthropological Perspectives.” 2012. In: Florangel Rosario-Braid, Crispin C. Maslog and Ramon R. Tuazon, eds. Crime and Unpunishment, pp. 20-43. Manila: Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication and UNESCO-National Commission on the Philippines. (2012)
  • Rizal and Science: A Struggle for Faith, Religion and Knowledge”. Budhi (Ateneo de Manila University), 16(2):1-29. (2012)
  • Philippine Anthropology in a Post-Anthropology Age.” 2010. In: Jorge Tigno, ed. Philippine Social Science Discourses, pp. 7-24. Quezon City: UP College of Social Sciences and Philosophy.