What exactly is Filipino Time?
Hmm, let’s see. Hold on for a while, I’ll get back to you in about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
All kidding aside, the term “Filipino Time” was coined to describe the chronic tardiness that plagues Filipinos here in the Philippines. Outside the country, our countrymen are known as some of the most industrious and conscientious workers around, and ironically, they try their best not to adhere to Filipino Time. Here at home though, it’s a different story.
Say you agree to meet your friends for dinner and a movie at 6:30 PM. You can expect most of them to show up at 7:00 PM, some will trickle in halfway through your meal, and the occasional straggler pops up just in time for the movie.
Another example: You decide to throw a party, and you tell everyone to come at 8:00 PM. The truth is, you want the party to “officially” start at around 9:00 PM and hence set the time about an hour ahead to accommodate the number of guests who will probably come in late (a good guesstimate lies between 50 and 75 per cent).
Getting To Know The Filipino Time
Who knows how the Filipino Time came about? Some blame it on our colonial past—the Spaniards brought with them the concept of “siesta” (mid-afternoon break) and “mañana” (literally: tomorrow; leaving things to the last minute) to the islands, and the country has not been able to set our internal clocks right since then. Others associate it with the Filipino “bahala na” (derived from “Bathala na”, which means to leave matters in God’s hands) attitude: Que sera, sera – Whatever will be, will be. And yet more blame it on a variety of reasons—traffic, the weather, even our own national identity (“It’s just a Pinoy thing…”).
How To Handle Filipino Time
As a foreigner new to the Philippines, what can you expect about Filipino Time? And how should you deal with it?
First, it depends on the context. For business meetings, as a general rule, one must be punctual, and this holds true in the Philippines as well. For more casual settings, however, expect the rules to be relaxed, or disregarded, even.
The following are noteworthy:
- It is expected for the party who arrived earlier to give a grace period of about 10-15 minutes for the other, to give leeway for circumstances beyond anyone’s control (although many especially foreigners wouldn’t agree, traffic can be considered a valid reason—traffic in the Philippines, especially in the bigger cities in Metro Manila, can really be unpredictable).
- If you arrive early or expect that you will be arriving too early, feel free to pass the time or make a brief stopover at a nearby café.
- One of the biggest reasons why people arrive at gatherings late is that each one is expecting everyone else to arrive late. Therefore, the best reason to get everyone to arrive on time is to politely but firmly point out that you expect everyone to be there at that time, sharp. Believe it or not, many people forget to emphasize this point, as Filipinos are often easygoing about a lot of things, and thus everyone ends up waiting around for everyone else.
- If people still fail to be punctual, and it’s for a casual meeting, my best advice would be not to sweat it. Stressing out and making a mountain out of what others would consider a molehill does no good for anyone. Accept the latecomer’s apology graciously, and try to enjoy the rest of your time!
This article on Filipino Time is contributed by Katlyn Krista Batuigas.