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Filipino Time

Updated on October 16, 2012


We were invited to a christening party and the invitation clearly said, “Dinner 6pm” at the Dragon Restaurant. I anxiously waited for my husband and two of our flat mates to finish getting ready. I was upset when we left the flat at 6:30 pm. I hate being late for any affair.

I was so puzzled when we got to Dragon Restaurant at 7pm to find it almost empty.

I thought the party started early and was over at seven.

My husband made inquiries and was informed that the party did not start yet. In fact, the hosts were not around. Well, I heaved a sigh of relief to know that we were not late – I mean we were just an hour late. The relief turned to annoyance when at 8pm dinner was not served. The hosts were there but there was no dinner in sight. In fairness, soup was served but in my state of hunger, soup was not enough. My large intestines were feasting on the small ones.

I had no idea why the party did not start – oh, I don’t care about the party anymore – what I wanted was dinner. Long story short, dinner was served after one guest arrived.

I have immediately developed a dislike for the man. Who is he to make us wait for him? How can the hosts starve their guests just for this one man who has no respect for the time of others?

Operating on Filipino Time

Yes – he is a Filipino and he is operating on Filipino Time. Though he took it to the highest level by coming 3 hours late. Worse is that the hosts tolerated his behavior to the detriment of their other guests.

Ever since I can remember, I have always lamented the fact that school programs never start on time. There’s always a guest of honor or a school official who comes an hour late without regard for the time of the students and parents who have the courtesy to be late by only 30 minutes.

I never know whom to blame for this phenomenon. Parents do not come early because they know the school program will never start on time. The school will never start on time because they know that parents and guests will never come on time.

I did not even know there is such a term as “Filipino Time” until I began to make appointments with friends, relatives, and classmates. Every time an appointment is made, there is the usual warning that the appointment is not on “Filipino Time” and to please come on time.

I have been stressed so many times because I started out as a very prompt person. I honor appointments by coming on time – only to wait and wait and wait – not on a few occasions but most of the time.

The solution to my endless waiting? Operate on Filipino Time. Yes, I leaned how to come late – but it still is stressful on my part. I hate to make other people wait for me as much as I hate waiting myself.

But for my countrymen – they have no qualms in making people wait. It seems that they gauge their importance by how late they arrive for appointments. The tardier they are, the more they feel important. There are others though whose tardiness has become a force of habit.

You see, for most Filipinos, a nine o’clock appointment means leaving the house at nine o’clock.

When our youngest sister who married an officer of the US Navy came home, we made appointments on several occasions to meet. On all of these occasions, she had always been on time. My other sister and I realized that living outside the Philippines, she learned to be on time – she now operates on American Time while we are on Filipino Time and there lies the conflict. At the exact time of the appointment, she calls, “I am here now. Where are you?” Most of the time, we’re still at home getting ready.

I also keep forgetting that military men are always on time – yes, even Filipinos – so when my police officer brother says he would drop by my house at 6am – he’s at my gate at 6am while I am at dreamland.

Juan Time

Even the government must have been concerned by this notorious habit which some say “pulls back the country in terms of lost productivity.”

To help shift this mindset and promote the value of time, the Department of Science and Technology, through the Science and Technology Information Institute, has launched “Juan Time,” a campaign that encourages time-consciousness among Filipinos. It aims to do away with the original meaning of “Filipino Time” and re-introduce Filipino Time as “on time”.

Juan Time is a play on words – “One Time” and “Juan” (the most common name for Filipinos) – it seeks to promote the nationwide use of the Philippine Standard Time (PST).

Actually, the use of one standard time is not an assurance that Filipinos will no longer be late. There has to be a change of attitude first -- the lack of respect for the time of others because of the notion that their time is more important - should be eliminated.


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