Growing up with Filipino Time [A Childhood Anecdote]

Running late to meet your Filipino friends? Don't worry, you aren't the only one.

Running late to meet your Filipino friends? Don’t worry, you aren’t the only one.

Filipino Time, which means things get done whenever they get done. Official Timing of The Philippines.
Example: I set up a party for 6:00. This is interpreted as 7:00 Filipino time.In some cases, Filipino hosts deliberately set the time an hour or so earlier, knowing that the guests will arrive an hour or so late. In this case, the poor Americans are surprised to see that they’re the first ones to arrive and the only ones there for the first hour or so.
                                                                                                                  – Urban Dictionary

Back in first grade, my house is located just the opposite of my elementary school, divided by the national highway connecting Muzon Rizal on its neighboring towns. Every summer, heat rises from the asphalt like a stifling haze which permeates to the surrounding houses and because of that, we would awake from our daily siesta drenched in sweat, like a fish being fried on its oil.

With my school just around my doorstep, being late is entirely impossible, which cuts out perfectly fine for me. I loathed the idea of being late. There’s nothing more dehumanizing than to walk inside a full-packed classroom and all the eyes of the teachers and students are on you, as if class tardiness is a crime of capital punishment.

My mom, meanwhile, is the complete opposite. She enjoys walking me to school and accompanying me to the classroom on the last minute. She fusses over my hair for long periods of time, as if appearance is of paramount importance. One time, during the School Recognition day wherein I was one of the students who would be awarded on stage, we my mom ascribed to a long process of make-up and hairstyle that I had to remind her many times my exposure on stage wouldn’t last ten seconds long. We were so late that by the time we got to the school grounds, the emcee has already been calling my name several times, and all the gaze of the people were on us as we climb up the stage, my mom taking her precious time and smiling away while I just want the earth to swallow me whole.

My fear of being late probably spawns from the fact that I hate taking too much time of other people. Time is very important to most, if not all people, and you can’t just spend their time by making them wait. I assumed the rest of the world shared the same thoughts, but not in The Philippines, I’m afraid.

I would have long ascribed myself to the Filipino time by being casually late, like the rest of my family and friends are, if it were not because of a traumatic incident back in the first grade. It was the first day of classes so you would think nothing would bum you out. Everything’s different, new uniforms, new books and new friends, new teachers…yet it turns out that the class I belonged in had the unfortunate situation of having a terror teacher as the adviser. This particular teacher, and her friend, are time fiends. They expect you to be on time all the time. As it turns out, I was the first person in the class who got a taste of their treatment when I arrived ten minutes late.

When my mom dropped me off the door, the teacher and her friend towered over me, arms crossed against their chest with malicious twinkle on their eyes. They started barking why I was late, what are my excuses. They especially became more enraged when they found out my house is just around the corner.

The teacher didn’t let me enter the class then. She made me stay at the door as the homeroom started. The corridors were empty except for me. The least thing I wanted to do is to cry but my pride acted like an impenetrable dam to my angry tears. After some time, the teacher let me in, but not before ordering the whole class to transfer to the half of the room. You see, our room is divided by two columns of chairs and desks, with each desk accommodating at least three students. My classmates were at the other half, while the teacher made me sit on the remaining half alone. The ostracism lasted until recess but the ordeal is stuck in my mind ever since.

From then on, I promised I would never be late again.

I exercised a strict adherence to time, may it be for classes, assignments, coverage, work, or even casual hang-out with friends, which is a hard thing to stick with since more than half of the people in this country have now succumbed to the Filipino time, or thirty minutes (even an hour) AFTER the designated time. I mean, couldn’t someone make a study or something of how Filipino time affects our economy and overall productivity??

One time I had to attend a coverage organized by a Japanese group dedicated to performance artists in a posh hotel at the heart of Manila, the Japanese special guests arrived 15 minutes before the time. The Filipino guests, speakers and press people wouldn’t arrive until an hour later and by the time then, the Japanese peeps have already finished their dinner and are called for another engagement as per their schedule. That was such a Facepalm moment..

My friends and workmates would often tease me about my time OCD but I couldn’t care less. What pisses me off sometimes is how they kept doing the same thing, making you wait for hours and hours even if they know you’re already at the rendezvous . It’s exhausting and unfair, having to wake up early just so you can get there in time while the other party takes his time. Then again, just like the other eccentricities of my race, I learned to accept that it’s sort of a cultural thing, like they’ve grown used to people around them taking their time so they took their time as well.

But at some point in life, if I would be given a chance to fake my death, I would rehearse a scenario where I died waiting for someone, like a wild car would run over me while I’m waiting on the sidewalk or a heavy block of cement would fall over my head. I can already imagine it on tabloid headlines and evening news: “Girl killed in a freak accident while waiting for a friend” Then they should start taking time seriously for a change.

About sentimentalfreak

Consistently inconsistent. Forever searching and wandering. 'Tis only writing that calms down her restless little soul.

Posted on February 10, 2014, in Filipino, It's More Fun in the Philippines, My country, rant, reflections, story and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. That’s a “horrible” experience you had in 1st Grade. But it changed your perception on being on time all the time. Being fashionably late or what we call “Filipino time” is just plain unacceptable. We should change our salawikain to: “Huli man at magaling, huli pa rin!”🙂

  2. Yep, in a way I should thank that teacher😄 I owe it all to her. Spot-on that salawikain!😀 Whoever came up with the original one must have been the king of tardiness, as if being late is a glorifying thing.

    Even VIPs in other countries have a much more tolerable arrival time. There’s this joke that once the apocalypse came to the world, the Philippines would be spared for one more day because the calamities will run on Filipino time😛

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