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Filipino on time? Will he ever be? |

Sunday Lifestyle

Filipino on time? Will he ever be?

The abbreviation of time, and the failure of hope, will always tinge with a browner shade, the evening of life. – Edward Gibbon

Filipinos are famous the world over for quite a few remarkable things: their unrivalled hospitality, their being great musicians and singers, and their appreciation for dogs (more in the gourmet sense, though.

Aray!) Another aspect that we are known for (but are unaware of by choice), is the intriguing and oftentimes frustrating concept of Filipino Time.
Time According To The Pinoy
What is Filipino Time? Let me think. Wait 30 minutes and I’ll let you know.

Seriously now, that is exactly what Filipino Time is. We live by our own clock which is always about 30 minutes to an hour (depending on our mood and the traffic) late compared to the world standard time. You know about the latter, don’t you? That the date in your country depends on whether it is east or west of the International Date Line and the time there depends on its latitude relative to the Greenwich meridian. No need to go into deep discourse about the scientific reasons behind all that.

Actually, if you look at the time on all the clocks in the country and on the wristwatches of the people, and listen to the radio or watch the digital time broadcast on TV, the numbers are pretty much the same and quite close to the correct standard time. But here is where the miracle happens. Something funny occurs that severs the time on the clock and the time of action by Filipinos. The Filipino mind sees the right time but the Filipino body acts at least 30 minutes later!

This means that if a Pinoy has an appointment at 2 p.m., he’ll be there at 2:30 p.m. or later (again, depending on his mood and the traffic, and the weather, and the car? etc.). Of course, sometimes, he doesn’t appear at all. But that is another story.
Why Filipino Time
Historians say that this matter about Filipinos being always late is a historical thing. The Spaniards, when they "discovered" the Philippines, brought with them the concept of siesta and until today, the whole archipelago is still in a perennial state of stupor.

Geologists and meteorologists say it is a tropic thing. They claim that what makes us fuzzy and lackadaisical is our weather. Whatever time it is, the weather is the same – hot. It is hot whether it is a sunny day or a rainy day. Seasons don’t change much here as compared to four season countries, so we are not time- and season-conscious. Plus the heat and humidity of the tropics make us lazy and lethargic.

Culture vultures say it’s a cultural thing. The Malay in us make our movements, especially our speech, so slow or malumanay to the point of being malambing (gently romantic). The Filipino gait has a relaxed sluggishness to it; you can actually tell a Pinoy from other Asians abroad from the way he walks!

Fashionistas say it is chic to be fashionably late. Being early or on time will earn you the reputation of being an eager beaver, or of having nothing better to do. In this country, people think twice and ask: "If I arrive early at the party or event, Dios ko, what would all the doyennes and wanna-be dictators of Philippine social ethics say?"

The standard operating maxim here is that the more important you are, the more dramatically late you should be. Late is chic, say the society arbiter elegantiarums. (Is this why couturiers are reputed to deliver wedding gowns when the groom is already waiting at the church’s middle aisle?
The Pros
Filipinos love Filipino Time. (I suppose they do or else they would not stick to it.) There is something magical about it. The concept of Filipino Time is congruent to the bahala na precepts we have inherited from our forefathers’ psyche – that if it is meant to happen, it will. It is also about having power over time. Knowing that you have the prerogative to be late (thus control time and not let it control you) is sheer might.

It is a relief to know that while you are working, you can still take it easy and have time to smell the sampaguitas with the Pinoy’s carefree treatment of time. To the Filipino, time is no big deal. What is 30 minutes late? Latecomers always arrive with a smile; those who have come earlier indeed sport the frown! Could this worry-free attitude towards time be the secret of youth and longevity of most Filipinos?

If Filipino Time pushes back the signs of aging and reduces stress, tension and all the other negative factors that sooner or later express themselves in heart disease or other forms of illness, then for goodness’ sake, let’s celebrate and perpetuate it. But if there were a way to keep this same carefree Pinoy attitude towards time and still be on time, then that would be heaven (or eternity?).
Filipino Time And The Corporate World
Filipino Time can be a great disadvantage in the world of business where precision and professionalism are always the orders of the day. It is especially frustrating during business appointments or meetings where other nationalities (those who stick to on-the-dot timing) are involved. The corporate world is an arena where asking "Filipino time or American time?" is unethical and risqué.

In this fast-paced age of virtual reality, the World Wide Web, supersonic flights, and other super-fast developing digital technologies, time is a very important and expensive commodity. Not deciding or moving a millisecond sooner can cost you irreparable loss in opportunity, capital and profits.

To get on the world express and not lag behind, Filipinos must rethink and restructure the way they look at time and how they react to it. Hopefully, the rapid pace of world events will eventually suck us into the vacuum of its tail and knock us to our horological senses.
Our Own Time Evolution
I believe that we, as a people, are evolving. We are growing mentally and improving ourselves thus we are on the way to perfection. But as Joseph Hall says, "Perfection is the child of Time." It would take a considerable period to unlearn all the time-related concepts and bad habits we have developed through the centuries.

There are two major choices in solving this dilemma: one is to stay with the comfortable habit of Filipino Time, the other is to resolve to be a "Filipino On Time"! The only way to change the Filipino from being a "Filipino Always Late" to a "Filipino On Time" is to mandate a law. But that would be dictatorial and would take time to enforce.

To be effective, the change has to be personal. It has to be an individual choice. And knowing the Filipino, he’ll ask, "What’s in it for me?" To those who are even just a little bit intrigued about the change, here is something to mull over. Success-fixated people are always on time. They know the value of time. They come prepared and arrive ahead of time. They realize that time is gold!

I have been fighting my own Filipino Time blues for many years now and I must confess that I occasionally lapse into its relaxed, unstructured, comforting time zone. (Then I would use my being a true-blooded Pinoy to rationalize my action.) But hope springs eternal. Who knows one sunny day the Filipino will suddenly take that 180-degree turn and be a strict time freak? A remote possibility, you say. In the meantime, take my advice on how to deal with time: "Think of time as another person. Go where you want to go before he arrives!"

Ah, "Filipino On Time"! Is it an idea whose time will never come? Only time will tell.
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I’d love to hear from you! E-mail For information regarding my success and money seminars, e-mail or text/call 0920-4053233. The reprinting, recording or publishing of this article in any form including the Web requires copyright permission from the author.

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