The Star Student

It was a landslide victory for Jimmy that morning of September, 1972. The Office of Student Affairs of the University of the Philippines released the UP Student Council Final Election Returns with him garnering a 70% sweep over the other candidate. The University was then walking on egg shells, the Marcos Regime would declare Martial Law a week after.

“More than 10,000 students voted on September 1, Friday,” recalls Norma Miraflor in her Resurrection at State U (Leader: Asia-Philippines, 15 September 1972, pp. 9, 44-45). And “7,203 of the total votes clinched the chairmanship for Jimmy Tan, a junior from the College of Medicine.”

It was on that worst of times, postdiluvial of the memories of the Diliman Commune that Jimmy stood to become the first University Student Council candidate of the College of Medicine:

Midnight of September 1, gunshots and pillbox explosion from the Vinzons Hall rocked the campus and the canvassing of the election returns,” shares Tira, “no one was hurt. The next day, Jimmy Tan made history as the first medical student to be UPSC chairman.


Concurrent with his tenure as student council, he served as Student Regent of the University. He served from 8 September, 1972 up to his resignation on 13 October.

Regardless of the botched term, Dr. Galvez Tan continued his struggles to fight for the rights of the people. As a young doctor, he put his efforts to promote the health of those who could not access it. He decided to live and work for 10 years in far flung doctorless communities in Samar, Leyte, Biliran, The Cordilleras, Negros Occidental and in Mindanao (especially in Davao, Cotabato, Agusan and Surigao) with brief stints in Basilan, Zamboanga del Norte, Lanao del Norte, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

These were also the years of martial law in the Philippines (1975 to 1983), where young health professionals were working in difficult circumstances due to the threats stemming out of militarization. It was during this period that Dr. Bobby de la Paz and Dr. Johnny Escandor, both colleagues of Dr. Galvez Tan were murdered allegedly by the military.

Undaunted, Dr Galvez Tan has continued on his work with the marginalized sectors of the country. Over the years, Dr. Galvez Tan continues to visit underprivileged provinces and municipalities.

Over the last five years he focused on considered resource-constraint and geographically isolated and depressed areas, like Northern Samar, Romblon, Palawan, Surigao del Norte, Sulu, Saranggani, Lanao del Sur, Soith Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Ifugao, Moutain Province, Eastern Samar and Maguindanao, this time providing technical assistance to Mayors and Governors on health governance, health systems development and ensuring access, quality and equity for the poorest of the poor. These field visits has also given Dr. Galvez Tan fresh insights and perspectives in designing strategies to ensure Universal Health Care.

He has advocated for a Return of Service for all health graduates of state colleges and universities. He has only been successful in generating multi sectoral discussions in the development of the Return to Service policy of the University of the Philippines Manila since his stint as Vice Chancellor to Research (2002-2005). The policy serves as a reminded of the Iskolar ng Bayan’s privilege to serve the Filipino—it is not a debt of gratitude, but an honor (that along ‘excellence’ describe the motto of the State U).

Honor and Excellence, two ideals that Filipinos can appreciate from Dr. Galvez Tan’s dedication in his long years of service.