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Location within the Philippines
Coordinates12°00′N 125°00′E / 12.000°N 125.000°E / 12.000; 125.000
Adjacent to
Area13,428.8 km2 (5,184.9 sq mi)[1]
Area rank63rd
Coastline800.6 km (497.47 mi)[2]
Highest elevation890 m (2920 ft)
Highest pointMount Huraw
RegionEastern Visayas
Largest settlementCalbayog (pop. 186,960)
Population1,909,537 (2020)[3]
Pop. density140/km2 (360/sq mi)
Ethnic groupsVisayans (Waray-Waray)

Samar (/ˈsɑːmɑːr/ SAH-mar) is the third-largest and seventh-most populous island in the Philippines, with a total population of 1,909,537 as of the 2020 census. It is located in the eastern Visayas, which are in the central Philippines. The island is divided into three provinces: Samar (formerly Western Samar), Northern Samar, and Eastern Samar. These three provinces, along with the provinces on the nearby islands of Leyte and Biliran, are part of the Eastern Visayas region.

About a third of the island of Samar is protected as a natural park, known as the Samar Island Natural Park.

On June 19, 1965, through Republic Act No. 4221, Samar was divided into three provinces: Northern Samar, (Western) Samar and Eastern Samar. The capitals of these provinces are, respectively, Catarman, Catbalogan, and Borongan.[4] In commemoration of the establishment of these provinces, June 19 is celebrated as an annual holiday and many have the day off from work.


Samar is the third-largest island in the Philippines by area, after the islands of Luzon and Mindanao.[5] Mount Huraw is Samar's highest point, with an elevation of 2,920 ft (890 m).[6]

Samar is the easternmost island in the Visayas. It lies to the northeast of Leyte, separated from it only by the San Juanico Strait, which at its narrowest point is only about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) across; the strait is spanned by the San Juanico Bridge. And it lies to the southeast of the Bicol Peninsula on Luzon, separated from it only by the San Bernardino Strait.

To the south is Leyte Gulf, which in October 1944 became the site of one of the most consequential naval battles[7] of World War II. And to the north and east of Samar lies the Philippine Sea, part of the Pacific Ocean.


Kingdoms and principalities


The name for the Samar island was approximated as Zamal by Antonio Pigafetta in 1521.

In 1543, King Iberein with his official oarsmen approached a Spanish vessel anchored in his harbour. Iberein is from Lawan. There is also a Samarnon saga that tells the story of Bingi of Lawan.[8]

There are other principalities on the island such as Ibabao (or Cibabao), Achan, Camlaya, Taridola, and Candaya.

Foreign descriptions

Samar was the first island of the Philippines sighted by the Spanish expedition led by Ferdinand Magellan (transcribed as Zamal in the diary of Antonio Pigafetta). He sighted it on 16 March 1521, having sailed there from the Mariana Islands.[9][10] Realizing he had arrived at an archipelago, he charted the islands, and called them San Lazaro (Saint Lazarus in English) because they were sighted on Lazarus Saturday. The Spaniards later called the island Filipinas, while the Portuguese called it Lequios. Although Samar was the first island of the Philippines sighted by Magellan, he did not land there. He continued south, weighed anchor at Suluan Island, and then finally, on 17 March 1521, he landed on Homonhon Island.[11] Later in the 1700s, Samar was recorded to have about 103 Spanish Filipino families and 3,042 native families.[12]: 113 

Years later, other Spanish expeditions arrived. The historian William Henry Scott wrote that a "Samar datu by the name of Iberein was rowed out to a Spanish vessel anchored in his harbor in 1543 by oarsmen collared in gold; while wearing on his own person earrings and chains." Scott recounted a Samarnon saga, which was called siday, about Bingi of Lawan, a prosperous Lakanate in Samar, and he also recorded that Datu Hadi Iberein came from the Lakanate of Lawan.[8]

Samar also had names which are recorded in early Spanish sources, including Ibabao (or Cibabao), Achan, Camlaya, and Taridola. The Spanish captain Miguel Lopez de Legaspi also infamously called the island Tandaya, after mistaking the name of a lord with the name of the island (not to be confused with Datu Daya of northern Cebu). This was spelled by Miguel de Loarca as Candaya.[10]

Philippine-American War

Further information: Philippine–American War, Balangiga massacre, and March across Samar

The final campaign of the Philippine–American War (1899-1902) took place in Samar and is one of the best known, and most notorious, of the entire war. A combination of factors resulted in particularly violent clashes.[citation needed]

On September 28, 1901, Eugenio Daza, Area Commander of Southeastern Samar and Valeriano Abanador, the town's police chief, launched an attack on U.S. Army Company C 9th Infantry Regiment who were occupying Balangiga. The Filipino Forces brought one of the only Filipino victories of the war and the worst American defeat in decades.[citation needed]

In 1989, "Balangiga Encounter Day" was established as a provincial holiday in Eastern Samar to celebrate the Balangiga Encounter victory.[13][14]

The Balangiga Encounter resulted in the brutal March across Samar.

"I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn; the more you kill and burn, the better it will please me ... The interior of Samar must be made a howling wilderness ..." — Gen. Jacob H. Smith

Thousands of Filipinos were slaughtered by American Marines.

In his history of the war,[15] Brian McAllister Linn asserts "Samar cast a pall on the army's achievement and, for generations, has been associated in the public mind as typifying the Philippine War."[citation needed]

World War II

The waters off the east side of the island also hosted the Battle off Samar on October 25, 1944, wherein a small, unarmored force of United States Navy escorts fought off the center force of the Imperial Japanese Navy, including the Japanese battleship Yamato. During World War II the island was part of a large US Navy base Leyte-Samar Naval Base.


Population of Samar
1903 266,237—    
1918 379,575+42.6%
1939 546,306+43.9%
1948 757,212+38.6%
1960 867,994+14.6%
1970 1,019,358+17.4%
1975 1,120,192+9.9%
1980 1,200,592+7.2%
1990 1,246,722+3.8%
1995 1,405,892+12.8%
2000 1,517,585+7.9%
2007 1,650,022+8.7%
2010 1,751,267+6.1%
2015 1,880,020+7.4%
2020 1,909,537+1.6%
Source: Philippine Statistics Authority[3]


  1. ^ "2010 Philippine Yearbook" (PDF). Philippine Yearbook (23rd ed.). Manila, Philippines: National Statistics Office. ISSN 0116-1520. Retrieved 2015-12-14.
  2. ^ "Islands of Philippines". Island Directory. United Nations Environment Programme. Archived from the original on 28 April 2019. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  3. ^ a b Census of Population (2015). Highlights of the Philippine Population 2015 Census of Population. Philippine Statistics Authority. Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  4. ^ "PHILIPPINE LAWS, STATUTES AND CODES - CHAN ROBLES VIRTUAL LAW LIBRARY". Ronald Echalas Diaz, Chan Robles & Associates Law Firm.
  5. ^ "Samar". Britannica. Retrieved February 23, 2023.
  6. ^ "Samar". Peakvisor. Retrieved February 23, 2023.
  7. ^ "The Battle of Leyte Gulf". Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved February 23, 2023.
  8. ^ a b Scott, William Henry (1985). Cracks in the parchment curtain and other essays in Philippine history. New Day Publishers. p. 93. ISBN 978-971-10-0073-8.
  9. ^ "The hospitable shores of Samar during Magellan’s landfall". ANCX. Retrieved February 23, 2023.
  10. ^ a b Ocampo, Ambeth (2012). Looking Back: Volume 1. Anvil Publishing, Inc. ISBN 9789712736087.
  11. ^ Parr, Charles McKew So Noble a Captain: The Life and Times of Ferdinand Magellan Thomas Y. Crowell, New York, 1953. p.431
  12. ^ ESTADISMO DE LAS ISLAS FILIPINAS TOMO SEGUNDO By Joaquín Martínez de Zúñiga (Original Spanish)
  13. ^ Ermita, Eduardo R. (September 26, 2008). "Proclamation No. 1629, s. 2008". Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines.
  14. ^ "Republic Act No. 6692". Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. February 10, 1989.
  15. ^ Linn, Brian McAllister (2000). The Philippine War 1899-1902. Lawrence, Kansas 66049: University Press of Kansas. p. 321. ISBN 0-70061225-4.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location (link)