Fiddle-f**king Around

Filipino time. Island time. Mañana.

Or, as I like to call it, “Fiddle- f**king around.”

Time is precious. Time is fleeting. Once gone, you can never get time back.

That is one reason why airlines often penalize you heavily for missing flights: Once that seat in the plane takes off, it is gone forever, along with the potential revenue that goes with it.

Perhaps the biggest adjustment that I have had to make since moving here, as an American, is getting used to the fact that time is simply not valued very highly in the Philippines. This may sound easy to adjust to, in particular, if you have never lived here or have only visited on a vacation or holiday. Trust me: Adjusting to the differing concept of time is very, very difficult. Especially if you were raised in a culture that values promptness, with business demands and harried lives to lead.

Filipino time is always late
Filipino time is always late

It is considered bad manners in the Philippines, for instance, when invited to someone’s home for dinner, to be on time. You are expected to be late. Show up on time, and your host will not be ready. Running late for a meeting? Just say “traffic”, and anyone in Manila will instantly understand. Gotta go to the airport? Let’s make 1,000 stops for more pasalubong on the way… The plane will always wait, right?

I’m not misogynistic. Really, I’m not. I love women. I respect women. I truly believe in equality, to the very core of my being. I, however, do not even begin to understand the female mind. What makes them tick? If I had that answer, I would be superhero to all of Maledom. I would be a living God. Certainly, women have tried to explain it to me before. The dumb look on my face usually just leads to an argument and an apology on my part.

So, if women have THE answer…. The true meaning of existence and life itself… The mystery that has baffled the greatest male minds and thinkers through the eons and millennia, you would think that they, perhaps, might want to share this little jewel of wisdom, right? For the betterment of all humanity, right?

So, I pose a question to the all-beings with one different chromosome, who comprise 52% of the world’s population:

Why does it take so long for you to get ready to go out…. anywhere? What are you actually doing?

Filipino Clock
Filipino Clock

My wife is a goddess in my mind. No fooling. She is my other, better, half.

So, we are already running late. Female reasons, I suppose. Add in the cultural differences.

What is with all of the fiddle-f**cking around? Let’s just GO! Vamoose. Skedaddle. Be off like a prom dress. Ride off into the sunset.

Getting this crowd ready to go is like pulling teeth. Getting things done becomes a chore.

In the last ten years, I have taken nearly 1,000 airline flights. How many have I missed due to being late? Two. Once, an alarm clock in a hotel room was set by yours truly, “operator error”. An “eye – dee- ten –tee” error (IDIOT). The other time, in Taiwan, I hit the snooze button and went back to sleep (oops!).

Standard procedure for the bus to Abulug (or going to the airport):

  1. Prepare to leave home 3 to 3 ½ hours ahead.
  2. Tell Rebecca 4 hours ahead (I conveniently “forget” the actual flight departure time…I cannot do this with the bus).
  3. Fiddle around with the luggage.
  4. Fiddle around getting showered.
  5. Hair and makeup.
  6. Do you really need to paint your toenails NOW?
  7. Change clothes two or three times.
  8. Fiddle around getting Juanito ready.
  9. Re-box all the pasalubongs.
  10. Is everything unplugged?
  11. Give food in the fridge to neighbours and their maids.
  12. Is the door locked?
  13. Exit the house.
  14. Re-enter the house. Juanito forgot his hat.
  15. Get in the car.
  16. Ask the driver to turn around and go back to the house to get something we forgot.
  17. Go back. Enter house. Retrieve said item.
  18. Get in car.
  19. Did I leave the iron on? NO! Please go check.
  20. Re-enter house to check. Get back in the car.
  21. Start driving. Oops, hit traffic.
  22. Give driver an extra P200 to “speed it up”.
  23. Sit on España while driver takes “shortcut” trying to get to Sampaloc station.
  24. Arrive at station as bus is departing.
  25. Rebecca jumps out of moving taxi to stop the bus.
  26. Pay taxi driver while dealing with 2,000 porters who materialize trying to “help” with 500 kg of boxes and pasalubong.
  27. Pay bus driver for extra baggage.
  28. Get on the bus, red-faced and out of breath, and explain to my other half why you didn’t have time to buy enough snacks for the ride.
  29. Door hits me in the back getting on said bus.
  30. Nearly fall and break my neck as bus starts moving the milisecond the door starts closing.
  31. Mild tampo (few minutes only) for becoming irritated.
  32. Happy journey!

Fiddle-f**king around, indeed…

Post Author: JohnM (207 Posts)

John Miele is a Citizen of the World, having spent time in many locations around the globe. Currently, he finds himself in Manila, but travels throughout the Philippines. John joined the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine in mid-2008.

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  1. Dan says

    John..funny post…but so true…….no. 7 .Change clothes two or three times….was the one when I was married that just drove me nuts… Fillipinas are not the only ones that do this…..I belive all women that have more than 2 out fits do this no matter where they are …that was the one that drove me nuts……and yes……pretty much always late…..why..because the ex..was never ready on time…never….and that was USA time…….hahaha…ok…lots of truth in what you posted here…

  2. Neal in RI says

    You are right on the money with this one!
    You “french” is more refined than mine, I usually skip the fidleee.

  3. Boon says

    I live in two time zones. My wife also thinks I spend time in a third yet undefined one as well. The first is one of Philippine Time where we take our time getting ready and show up appropriately late for most events sponsored by Filipinos. The second is with our expat friends where we show up on time for fear of there being no food left. The third is one where I am………
    Personally, I am happy and functional in both time zones

  4. Mike Graham says

    LOL, wonderful article, John!
    I’m not sure if things are similar in The RP, but in North America, Filipinas like my wife seem to be drawn to multi-level marketing schemes, as a magnet is to mild steel, which would be my #2 pet peeve, after the delay process you’ve described. Perhaps I should re-phrase; the unexpected changes that occur in my home utilities & bank account is the actual pet-peeve. I awoke this morning to find that I have no telephone service & that my long-loved home phone number is gone forever. I have a satellite dish – where once there was cable – that works sporadically & gets about 1,000 channels, but not the one where I can watch the Boston/Tampa Bay eastern conference finals. My latest credit card bill shows several expenditures on Rodeo Drive – never been there, myself – which coincide with my boat purchase trip to Newport Beach. But, “Fear not”, I say, for my wife assures me that such things will never be repeated and, while 20 years of marriage may not support her assertions, she’s worth every extra expenditure & inconvenience that comes my way.

    • JohnM says

      Mike: I always thought it strange… We have special regulators for our LPG tanks now from one of those schemes… along with Amway cleaning gunk, and the “energy saving” power box on the wall. Also, I think that HSN and Chef Tony must be successful at selling those knives here.

    • says

      Filipinos in America fall for the marketing schemes because it is other Filipinos who are trying to sell this crap to them. It’s as if they cannot believe that a fellow Filipino would “steer them wrong.” At least in my area, it is very common for members of the Filipino community to have lots of side jobs and “enterprises” selling a variety of goods and services that are largely worthless, but yet we seem to be always obliged to politely listen to the sales pitch.

      • John Miele says

        Brent: I saw the same thing in Abu Dhabi… Many Filipinos fell for the pyramids since the wages paid are normally so low with their “real” jobs.

        • says

          John, I can accept your Abu Dhabi example, but the the Filipinos from America doing the same I just think is crazy. There was one fella here who works as an “administrator” at a local community college, so I’m assuming pretty good salary (at least as good as mine) who is “pitching” alternate sources of electric power to all who would listen. I suppose I just find it in poor taste, kinda of like the Amway people who pitch it to their family and friends. Maybe its a cultural difference, what I find annoying, the Filipinos think of as “resourceful.”

      • says

        I came home from work one day when I was still married to my x-Filipino wife to find a giant gold framed mirror propped up in the garage. It was about 6 feet long, maybe 4 feet high, and must have weighed over 100 pounds. That mirror clearly was not suitable for a private home — it belonged in some place like a hotel lobby. She had bought it from another Filipino friend because she thought it looked good and wanted to hang it in our house. Problem was, there was absolutely no place suitable to hang it. The logic of why she would even consider buying this oversized mirror eluded me at the time. I talked her into getting rid of it and as I recall she dumped it on another Filipino friend. This scenario repeated itself a few more time with other things in the 2 years we were married.

  5. KeithF says

    Great article, funny, but true. I remember having to attend our pre marriage class, rushed my better half since I am one of the impatient Americans with a watch, we arrived, and the lecturer was not even there. 45 minutes later she arrived and the “class” was about 15 minutes long anyway. lol.
    Here, when we need to go some place, I usually sit and watch TV or something, even after the wife says she’s ready. I know as a matter of fact it will be another 30 minutes at least from that point until we actually need to get up.

    • Steven Hark says

      Brilliant article JohnM

      KeithF you are lucky it was only 15 minutes. Mine, in Davao, was all day, in Bisaya, and I flown in a long way for that series of lectures. I always remember when a priest said something and nearly all of the women were not happy. “What’s up,” I asked. Only to get an elbow in my side. So, in English, I asked what he had just said – another elbow. He replied that the wife must obey the husband. Hah!

  6. Hudson says

    Hey John,
    I had a marriage counsler explain it to me this way: Men are from Mars, and women are from Venus. I agreed with her, but since thin I have com to a different conclusion. Men may be from Mars, but woman are from a much more distant planet, like Uranus. :)

  7. Mark G. says

    My wife takes a minimum 3 hours to get ready no matter where we go. I’ve had to pay taxi drivers, bus drivers. bell boys etc. a premium just to wait or help us hurry things along. Now with the baby to add to our responsibilities I can add another hour I suppose. Funny thing though those folks at Cebu Pacific will not hold those flights out of Manila even five minutes…in the provinces I can show up at the airports just about two minutes ahead of departure and be treated like royalty…the wonderful contradiction that is the Philippines and Filipina time. 😉

    • JohnM says

      Mark: I noticed that when I fly out of Tuguegarao… Though, to be fair, I doubt those flights have ever been on time.

  8. Lenny says

    My woman fiddle faddles with her clothes and changes after looking in the mirror 3 or 4 times EVERYTIME we go somewhere even the neighbors. I really smile when she does this…….But, I must be one of the lucky ones, shes the one always telling me to PREPARE myself to go….. it’s such and such time (hurry up) .. She is very prompt…But I have not really seen it here as drastic as you make it out to be, but I have heard your story before, so it must have some truth to it…. Maybe it depends on where you live what class neighborhood you live in ,, who your friends are and so forth….I don’t know but thats the way it is with me…..Live in Manila area..

    • JohnM says

      Lenny: We live in QC, but I see the same thing up in Abulug… Recently getting ready for court for Juanito. EGADS!

  9. Roselyn says

    Hi John: A very funny post. I prepare my clothes, shoes, and everything in the evening. I get up two hours ahead of my departure time every work day. I prepare my breakfast in less than 5 minutes and eat it within 15 minutes. I get dressed within 30 minutes. Get my husband his coffee and bring it to him in bed! (I yell “coffee”, instead of “time to get up”.) He is a grumpy man in the morning. While hubby is waking up with his coffee, I prepare my lunch, feed the fish, feed the cat, watch a little stock market news, and time to go! Hubby complains that I arrive 30 minutes before my actual work time… I like to arrive early at work, my brain works better that way. I’ll have some adjusting to do when I retire in the Philippines.

    • JohnM says


      Well, if you let the cat eat the fish, and the dog eat the cat, then you have saved 15 minutes right there! Give the dog a colostomy, and even bigger savings result! 😉

      I would agree, though, that as a professional with a career, the time adjustment will most likely be difficult.

    • Steve Maust says

      If you and I were not married already I would ask you to be my wife! You do more before 9AM than most Filipinas do all day! LOL!!!

  10. Christine says

    John, this story reminded me of an outing to the beach in Cebu. I am like you. When I say “we leave at 2:00 p.m. on the dot”, I expect everyone to be on board! NOT in the Philippines. This particular day, my Filipino mob (relatives) were going to a picnic, 2pm I was already on the car, plus sisters. Wait! Auntie wants to come. OK, where is she? She’s getting the baby’s milk organized. 20 mins later, baby and Aunt on board. But wait! Where’s sister in law? She’s getting the pillows and the mats! And so on and so forth. We were an hour late leaving. I’d like to say never again, but there’s no guarantee of that!

    • John Miele says

      Christine: Pretty much my experience in Abulug… Thinking just myself, Becky, and Juanito going, and before long a vehicle with 10 people. Always at least an hour to get moving.

  11. marjorie says

    John, there are some females who can be on time, we have got our daughter-in-law trained reasonably well. But, its the clothes changing that is the usual problem. Luckily thats not one of my habits. Both my parents had been in the forces and I was brought up to be on time.

    But I have known plenty of my friends who had trouble getting ready on time.

    Sorry boys, I do not know the answer, apart from the old trick of changing the time of departure to a couple of hours earlier lol

  12. says

    I would have to say its the other way around for my husband and I. :p But I guess its not a culture difference but a personality-type difference. I was once one hour early for a meeting where my pinoy friends were all one hour late.. ultimately making me wait by 2 hours!

    • John Miele says

      Claudette: The biggest adjustment for me was with business appointments… Though people here are slightly better when it comes to business.

  13. mike in canada says

    Hi John,

    Great post. I was in Candon City, Ilocos Sur in March 2011 for the local tobacco festival. I normally not travel at this time of the year as my work is busy but made time so I could see the festival. The city issues an event schedule with times for all the festival events. The first one I went to was the tobacco rolling contest which was to start at 9am. I got ready and proceeded to the location and got my premium seat to watch. I was surprised there were not many people there. After two hours of waiting around the event started. Then three different people introduced the “VIP’S” three different times ( I think they all wanted in the spotlight). This took another hour, before the fun started. Then a day or two later I went to the Miss Virgina Tobacco Contest. Start time was around 6 or 7 pm so with the advice of the girlfriends family I went late, and waited around 2 hours with no start in sight. I had made plans to meet some friends for drinks and watch a band at 10:30 so I left. I heard the next day it started at 11pm. The problem is that many families were there with small children at 7pm waiting. How long are 7 and 8 year old’s going to sit still and then stay up till 3am because it is not on time? I was then hand delivered an invitation along with my girlfriend the next day to be a guest of the City of Candon to recognize OSW’s that returned for the festival. Not knowing the real start time and being a person that is never late we decided not to attend. The last event we went to was the Bikini contest at Candon Beach Resort, I would guess 10,000 in attendance, starting 5 hours late, and no seating unless you are a VIP. I learned the hard way what Philippine Time is. The problem is I would not go out of my way again to attend the festival, and they will not attract tourism this way. I would suggest that if your going to print a program stick to the starting times otherwise why bother.

  14. Jack Emery says

    All so true. I can’t even remember what it’s like to arrive at the movies in time to see the previews. Now that we’re living here in Davao, for me the kindle is a great salvation. I take it with me everywhere, when I have to wait for someone, no problem, I just go sit in a corner and read.

  15. Allan Kelly says

    Hi John

    Boy do I know what you mean. It took a long time for me to get it. Now what I do is not get ready until my wife has asked me at least four times “Are you going to get ready?” Then I get ready at a leisurely pace. That way I only sit around waiting for one hour. Smart, huh?

    • John H says

      I got to where I just wait till she says she is ready to go then I change my shirt/shorts or maybe even take a shower. Get one of the kids ready open the gate start the truck and honk a few times then turn the truck off and wait…

  16. Bruce Michels says

    Great post!! Being with my asawa for 32yrs and knowing the Filipino community as I do. I always tell my wife to be ready by 5 when I really mean 6. Tell her friends dinner is at 4 when it is at 5 and I never secure the house she will do it automatically in her post inspection tour.
    Why do it she’ll always check.
    Your check list is pretty much dead on and I love it because I always tell her to stop fiddleling around and lte’s go too. Maybe they just want to see us sweat under pressure?

    • John Miele says

      Bruce: Not much of a conspiracy theorist, but I think it is a plot against us who possess the dangly bits!

  17. Katty says

    Hi there John!

    Laughing head off over this article of yours because i can see myself! especially on no.19 mind you even here in Japan and not only the iron but also the gas range, there was one time OMG we are really about to leave with a fire open! thank goodness i doubled check. lol. My little girl’s school bus in the morning never wait students so i must kick my own ass or i will see my daughter’s pity face and worst thing i don’t drive there’s no jeepney here a kindergarten riding a taxi just to get to school.nah.

    • John Miele says

      Katty: It must have been a big adjustment moving to Japan… I’ve always found people there to be exceptionally prompt.

  18. Ricardo Sumilang says

    About the only time I know of when a scheduled time is strictly observed by Pinoys is the start of funeral processions in my barrio. From the barrio, the municipal cemetery is a 10-kilometer New Orleans-style funeral shuffle and dance. Honest, this is barrio Salaza in Palauig, Zambales, I’m talking about. With the obligatory stop at either the Catholic Church or the Aglipay Church along the way for the last rites, depending on the religion of the deceased, the full-barrio procession, with a band in front and a second band bringing up the rear, takes up to 4 hours before it reaches its final destination. This being the case, funeral processions are scheduled to depart from the house of the deceased on the band’s cue promptly at 7AM, following the traditional throwing of a decapitated chicken down the stairs to precede the coffin. Must be an Ilocano tradition.

    So, there. Funeral processions at my barrio give an alternative meaning to the much-maligned “Filipino Time”, no fiddle f…g around. Why the promptness? It’s because to delay the start of the procession is to endure the unforgiving heat of the sun during a lively 4-hour shuffle to the cemetery, punctuated by laughter, banter and showers of coins thrown at the procession from passing vehicles.

    • Christine says

      Ricardo, your post reminded me of my brother’s comments when we encountered 3 funeral processions on the way to Cebu city. It considerably slowed the traffic increasing our frustrations. Bro commented why the slow procession at funerals when the souls has probably reached their destinations anyway, be it heaven or hell! :)

      • Ricardo Sumilang says

        Three funeral processions in a row can definitely slow you down, but not the souls who, by then, have long been enjoying welcome cocktails with St. Peter, or were already half-roasted to hell in hell by the time their bodies are laid to rest. LOL

        Do they practice New Orleans-style jazz funeral where you’re from, Christine? If they do, be aware that “When the Saints Come Marching In” is played during the funeral procession as played in funeral processions I’ve witnessed in my barrio Salaza, the liveliest up tempo of the music immediately following the soft, somber portion of the music, as exemplified in the video below, is what slows down the procession. During the up tempo, the procession comes almost to a stand-still as the dancers leading the procession mostly shuffle in place. Hahahaha

        Take a look:

        • Christine says

          No, they don’t practice the New Orleans style funerals in Cebu, I don’t think. I have never seen any other funeral styles but the sombre, slow marches. I agree with my brother and with you. The souls would have been well and truly golden roasted (if the welcome party was in hell) and definitely tipsy (if ithe welcoming committe was St. Peter) by the time the body is buried :)

          I won’t mind a New Orleans style “despedida” party though :)

        • John Miele says

          Ricardo: At the two funerals I attended up in Cagayan, the bands were playing quite lively music, especially at the wake. I’ve been told that the exception is during the actual procession.

    • Papa Duck says


      I think it would be neat to see a funeral procession in your barrio, especially going that distance and the bands playing. Sounds like its a celebration of a “new life” whether it be in heaven or hell, rather than death. Are all funerals like that? Thanks for the info.

      • Ricardo Sumilang says

        Papa Duck, no, I don’t think all Philippine funerals are like that. I do know that it was like that in the funeral I have witnessed in my barrio because I was a participant in the funeral procession I have described, and the deceased was my Mom. My Mom was a respected figure in the barrio because of her kindness in helping the poor and financially supporting various barrio projects. Out of respect for her, practically the entire barrio, including many kids who missed school, attended the funeral, from the church services all the way to the burial site. But the point of my comment is that when the funeral procession was scheduled to start at 7AM, it did promptly start at 7AM to take advanatage of the relatively cooler temperature of the day. By 11AM when we reached the cemetery, it was already blazing hot.

  19. Bryan G says

    All of this is so familiar – it took me years to come to terms with’Filipino time’ -as I worked in the aviation business where as John says time is money and being on time is part of the culture – it still annoys but not to the same extent. I could go on for hours about incidents – my wifes sister arriving 1 1/2 hours late at the church for her daughters christening,having a family outing to Matabunkay that suffered so many delays and stops that it was time to return when we arrived! There is never any kind of rational reason for lateness in the Philippines – it just happens. It is the only country I have lived in where time is flexible – an hour can be as long as is convenient. The odd thing is that once overseas the Filipino loses this attitude immediately and is as punctual as the rest of the worlds population.

    • Christine says

      Not in Oz they don’t Bryan. Even after living here for many years, Filipinos still continue their tardiness. And another bane for party organizers, many members of our Filipino community will hardly reply to RSVP to party invitations. Many an occasion I have attended where the organizers cater for 200 people (those who confirmed attendance), only to find themselves with food shortage because 100 unconfirmed (and LATE!) invitees turned up!

        • Christine says

          Hi Papa Duck, Filipinos love to work. At least over here they do. The Filipino nurses I work with are not tardy. But I think they make up for being “on time” by going slow with the job! As in slow in giving out medications, slow in making the beds, slow in answering buzzers. No kidding!

          • Ricardo Sumilang says

            Christine, those Filipino nurses who arrive for work on time, but are slow in performing their duties, do you think they are trying to make a statement about not being compensated enough for the kind of work they do? Or, perhaps it’s their nature to move slowly and don’t even realize how slow they work, given that they come from a tropical environment where working slow is perhaps the norm because the suffocating heat makes working fast exhausting. Either case, perhaps they need to be counseled prior to their scheduled performance evaluation about their unacceptable performance. If there is no improvement by the next evaluation, well, there are plenty of other highly-motivated nurses in the Philippines who would love to be in their shoes.

            Our health provider – Kaiser Permanente – employs many Filipina nurses as well as Filipino physicians. I have yet to encounter a Pinay nurse whom I would consider a disgrace to her profession, but, then again, I do not know the inner workings of a hospital enough to make a determination about how quick or how slow medications ought to be dispensed.

            Oh, wait! I just had an idea. I’ll bet those slow-moving nurses are still operating on Filipino time based on the wrist watches they brought along with them from the Philippines. See if they can be made to toss them, and buy Australian wrist watches and watch the improvement! Hahahaha

            • Christine says

              Hi Ricardo, no I don’t really think the Filipino nurses were trying to make a statement re-their wages. Believe me, Queensland Nurses are the 2nd or 3rd highest paid in the country. How does $30 an hour sounds for a fresh out of university nurse? Thrown in other benefits such as 6 weeks paid holiday plus 22% leave loading plus 10 days sick leave a year makes some pretty good incentive. Most are good workers but just not good with time management. Being late is a no-no because you can bet that if you’re not in the workplace 20 minutes, after the start of the shift, the nurse manager will be calling you at home. Perhaps like you said, they have Philippine made watches . :)
              Or it could be that English being our second language and being new to the system, they are trying to be extra careful with everything.

              • Ricardo Sumilang says

                Christine, you may be right about the Pinay nurses being extra careful with everything, perhaps in the mistaken assumption that by moving slowly and carefully, they are projecting an image of humility and avoid being seen as cocky, particularly if they are newbies in a Western setting. If this is the case, they must think that going about in the performance of their duties with a less-aggressive demeanor is a desirable quality in an employee, and would earn them points. Is this the mind-set of the average Filipino wage-earner in the Philippines? I don’t know. But, you and I both know that in the Western workplace, with all things being equal, the self-assured job applicant more often than not gets hired over the timid, passive one.

                Christine, sometime ago, you posted a comment displaying a less than ordinary knowledge of depression. Assuming that you are in that field of medical specialty, and further assuming that you are in a supervisory capacity, how would you go about modifying the mindset of the slow-moving Pinay nurses in question insofar as their conforming to the standards of work performance in the West without offending them?

              • Ricardo Sumilang says

                Further to the above. Without suggesting that they get rid of their watches they brought over from the Philippines and buy Australian watches set on Western time. LOL

              • Ricardo Sumilang says

                Correction to the post above:

                “Christine, sometime ago, you posted a comment displaying a MORE than ordinary knowledge of depression.”

      • Allan Kelly says

        Hi John

        I think this would make a great future article. “Have Philippinos lost their work ethic?’

        We have about 12 – 15 Philippinos working here. The older ones always seem to be early. The younger ones are often late or just in time. I was born in Newfoundland, a province in Canada. Known for their work ethic. But the younger generations do not seem to have it. Canada does have a group of imigrants (and native born) who have decided that with our social programs, they do not need to work to get ahead. This group definately include Philippinos.

        What do you think?

      • Bryan G says

        Possibly because of the industry I worked in if they were not punctual they would be out of a job – hunger is a great incentive! When I worked for Saudia any delay of more than 3 minutes had to be accounted for, then they Saudized, put Saudi nationals into supervisory positions then the on time requirement was forgotten. Any person who has worked with Saudi Arabians will tell you that getting a Saudi to turn up on the day he is scheduled never mind the time is an achievement,they make Filipino time look good. I am sure that John will agree with this – he is an old ME hand.

        • Jonathan says

          Hahaha! You are so right Bryan. Here, Filipinos are the “Americans” lol. BTW, I used to work with Saudia too in Jeddah.

      • Bryan G says

        Some of the contracts I worked on had penalty clauses – delays over a certain period we had to pay the customer. Normal lease rate for a 747 freighter is about $5000 per hour so it does not take many hours delay before you are looking at big numbers – it can take days to get a spare part to some out of the way place then comes the nightmare of customs clearance.In some cases we would get someone to carry the part as hand baggage to save the time in a place where we knew we would have a problem.

  20. Bob New York says

    For me I think the Filipino concept of time would really require a lot of effort on my part to try to adjust to. I will compliment my friends there as when they said they would meet me at the hotel, they were prompt and within + / – 6 minutes of the appointed time. I think they made the effort to do this since they know Kano is more accurate with time and since I am only there for a couple of weeks at a time, time itself is very valuable to me.

    On the last couple of visits, something I did notice is that every clock I looked at when compared to my watch, were all different by varying amounts.

    My friends there also were quick to learn when Kano ( me ) is getting close to the end of his patience. On one occasion in a bank I knew if I did not ” cool it ” I would most likely been escorted out of the place by the security guards. I knew better and just left with my friends.

    For the better part of my working life I have been involved in competitive businesses where time or the lack of it can make or break keeping an account or them going to the competition.

    I really must compliment my Filipino friends and those I have not met yet as to how patient and routine they are with things that could easily make me loose my cool. Difference in Culture.

    I wonder if they get an opposite reaction when they come to the USA ? My English friends always reming me that Americans think English people are eccentric and English people think Americans are just plain Crazy.

    Thanks for another great article and very useful for recent readers of this website, and a good reminder for the rest of us.

    • John Miele says

      Bob: The longer I am here, the more I tend to get patient… Very rarely does losing your cool ever make things faster.

  21. mac nadal says

    I totally agree! Time-wasting is a national pasttime in the Philippines and for them, it’s OK to waste precious time. Absolutely annoying and can get into people’s nerves. Sheer bureaucracy is time-wasting, too. With bureaucracy comes more corruption since tracing the signatories for one lousy government item becomes tedious. In short, no one gets the blame. It’s a trick. This is one Filipino custom–time-wasting–that is dragging the country down. The long delays don’t seem to exasperate those in government. They are the biggest time-wasters around.

    • John Miele says

      Mac: Was at immigration the other day and heard some Kanos complaining… It seemed to make the queues take even longer.

  22. alf says

    Hi John! I know that you have worked here in Abu Dhabi, and you might have noticed that respect given to the time here, is sometimes worse than in the Philippines. However, Filipino time is practiced here, common during Filipino community activities. If there is something not very Filipino in me, I would say, is the concept of time. In most cases, I am always prompt. Sometimes, if most people come in late, they blame me for being early. Should I feel guilty? :-). I enjoyed your post, the enumeration type. I experienced most of that with my mother, many many years ago. But number 21 entry made me giggle, you are becoming too Filipino already!! :-) Is that a bad sign? Definitely no! Hope you had a wonderful trip. God speed! :-)

    • John Miele says

      Alf: Yeah, in Abu Dhabi, they waste a lot of time, too… Especially with 3 hour lunches, though that is slowly changing (Also understand about the heat at mid-day). During Ramadan, absolutely nothing gets done there (Who wants to work while fasting? Along with any other holidays).

  23. Steve Maust says

    When I come for visits I have a simple plan for time management. When going through the scanners at the airport I am required to take off my watch. At this time (on time) I put it in my carry on bag. It stays there until the end of my time (sad time) in the Philippines. If we are to go somewhere or be at something, I just let them tell me when it is time (late I am sure, never early) to get in the tricycle! I do not worry about the time there at all. If I show up somewhere and someone ask me why I am late, I just ask them in return “What time is it, I forgot my watch!”
    Surprisingly no one is ever late if I say it is a free San Miguel night!

  24. bobbyaguho says

    Hi John,

    Excellent article and funny too :) Wait until your son is a little older.He will be just like his mom.At least that’s been my experience LOL ! I’m up every morning at 0430 preparing breakfast, lunch for my son to take to school, and our dinner that we’ll eat at our business in the evening.I lay out a clean school uniform for him,load the truck,shower,shave,drink some coffee,and glance at the sports page all of this by 0600.I then wake my wife and son up so they can shower and he can eat his breakfast.Ideally, I want to be on the road by 0630 to face the SoCal morning scrum.All they have to do is shower and get dressed.Everything else has been done for them.Do you think we ever leave at 0630 ? Hahahaha ! More like 0645-0650 if we’re lucky.It’s always something…….. Do I get mad ? Nahhh. It’s been this way for sooooooo long(20 years married) that it’s pointless to get angry.At least I get to see the Pacific Ocean every morning….. a calming effect :)

    I’ve never missed a flight due to being late, but I have left stuff that I needed on a plane.Like my passport !LOL.I left it on a JAL flight SFO-NRT back in 2000.We boarded the flight at SFO and the pilot was doing his pre flight check and noticed a problem with one of the engines.After 30 minutes he told everyone the bad news.A small problem in one of the engines had developed and our flight would be delayed another 7 hours.Oh well, that stuff happens from time to time when you fly.Better to be safe than sorry.JAL staff went out of their way to apologize to each passenger and give us food and drink vouchers etc.Long story short, I was quite loaded when we finally arrived at NRT and I left my passport stuff on the seat next to me in J class.One of the flight attendants tracked me down as I was heading to immigration.That was real cool of her :)

    Now my wife on the other hand HAS missed a flight for being late.In 1995 we spent Christmas in Metro Manila.I had to leave after 2 weeks to go back to work and she stayed 1 week longer.Now as most of you know,flights in and out of Manila are booked solid from about Dec.15 thru Jan 10th every year.Her flight was on NW which always leaves MNL around 8 in the morning.Of course, you need to be at the airport by 0500 or 0530 at the latest to join the somewhat unorganized scrum at Terminal 1.Apparently, she joined the scrum too late and by the time her bags went through the x-ray machine NW’s counter was closed.Live and learn…… She ended up staying in MNL another 5 days until I found her 1 available seat .However, it was in J class and she had to pay 600.00 dollars to upgrade her ticket.Otherwise, the next available flight was another 5 or 6 days later.The airlines are not Filipino time friendly !LOL. She did enjoy her flight back to The U.S. in biz class though :) In fact, she now prefers to fly in J class whenever we fly to MNL.

  25. Monique says


    I always love reading Miele’s blog, because it is always neutral and a joke at times, but this time I will comment that it is a little bit generalization on women.

    I’m female, probably the opposite of majority of women. My husband take shower longer than me, secret and big spender, I tell him to stop spending then later you find a set of crockeries (which we dont need) in the garage. Hubby is always procrastinator big time. No hiking and not much walking. Going to the next store, he has to drive. Out-of-town trip like California to Oregon, Ive gotta to be the driver. My husband’s exercise to be honest is just to change channel whenever he watches TV.

    I work an average of 12 hours a day, on top of that I took care of our dogs business and walking, plus the house chores. I can still manage to cook. I defroze in the morning that by the time I get home the meats are already thaw.

    Weekends are the highlight of my day, I get up 6am so I can hike up the mountains and I still have more energy to burn.

    From Miele’s post, I think the problem is not women. Some ladies are ritualistic in nature. One of my hiking friend always calls me to wait for 5 mins coz she’s running late. These daily rituals can cost your time.

    A co-worker of mine can handle with her two kids soccer and ballet activties and working full time. Another friend I know only have 1 baby and it seemed like a big struggle for her and not working full time.

  26. says

    John,I enjoyed your post. Could feel the frustration,the irony & comedy. I thought folks might benefit from a recounting of my first encounter with Filipino Time & the internal transformation in me that followed. For a couple of months in 1979,I lived with a Pinoy family in Pandacan (Metro Manila) They were natives of Bacolad (Negros Occidental) Ilonggo. There were 13 of us (I was the only foreigner) living in very tight quarters, with no running water,no fridge (Ref),no air con etc.etc. We lived very near to a squatter area & a river of raw sewage (Lagoon). Plenty of fly’s, mesquitos,cockroaches (ipis) Rats (daga),heat,pollution,noise galore. Anyway,I was raised in the USA.My father taught me very early ( and our society demanded it) that being on time speaks to credibility. While living with the family in the Philippines,I was secretly irritated (pissed) with their lack of timeliness. I kept telling myself,”no wonder they can’t accomplish anything”. Or “Why do they keep lying?” I was only 26 years old & this was my first true exposure to another culture. I had a lot to learn. Anyway,after a while,I started thinking of a way to counter “Filipino Time”. All of the sudden,a light when on in my narrow brain. I said to myself ” Hey Mitch,for the first time in your life the pressure is off”. Why? “Now I don’t have to be on time & if I don’t keep my word I can BS my way out of it” Anyway,ever since that epiphany in the Philippines in 1979,I became fond of the Philippines & its people. I have since even had a couple of westernized Filipino’s frustrated with me,because I have been better at being on Filipino Time than they have. Heck,I figure why rush to catch the bus.Another one will eventually appear.hehe

    • JohnM says

      Mitch: Like you, I’ve started to become less timely… Funny thing is, as Juanito has grown older, Rebecca starts losing patience with getting him ready… OH! The delicious irony!

  27. says

    Yes John. Delicious Irony. Filipino Time is probably something us westerners should just accept & not try to analyze too much. There seems to be a thread of non-compliance,stubbornness or just plain thumbing one’s nose at the heart of Filipino Time. Perhaps it is a simple product common in the tropics. The heat & humidity does zap one’s energy & can take its toll on ambition. Irony can be very telling. For example,my daughter (first marriage),mother & father used to stay in our small (1 bedroom 1 bath)cabin with my Pinay wife & I from time to time. My wife was friendly enough to them,but I could tell she didn’t like having my family breathing down her neck.Having said that,my wife seems to think a perfect life is to have her entire family under her roof. What’s up with that?

  28. rose says

    I’m starting to doubt my Filipino nationality for the mere reason that I try my best to be always on time. And being on time comes with a price— to be willing to wait for the rest of my people to arrive at least an hour late or so.

    A lot of Filipinos would adjust their watches 45 minutes ahead just so they’ll be pressured to be on time (they’ll think it’s 2:45 and they’re late for a 2:00 meeting, but technically, they’re just on time), while some just won’t care. Set a meeting at 10am, and in their minds they’re automatically like “Okay see you at 11.”

    Quick tip so you won’t get annoyed: If you’re looking at a 9am appointment, tell the Filipino you want to meet him/her by 8AM sharp. Works 85% of the time. 15% certainty they’ll only be a few minutes late.

  29. says

    I’ve been fairly lucky although I did miss one flight to Iloilo recently and I can (mostly) blame myself. Living only 2 miles from the airport.. who would have known it would take 50 MINUTES to get there via taxi? I mean.. that’s just surreal. And I only missed the flight by 5 minutes for check-in time. The plane was still there.. not leaving for another 45 minutes. But no.. the salt to the wound is that if circumstances make you late.. you can bet your $$$ that the plane will be on time. UNLESS.. you get on the plane early.. then it will sit on the tarmac for 30 minutes past schedule.

    The rest of the time, I try to give myself an added 3 hours to getting anything done. Especially if it involves bureaucracy. But most days, I get to put off until tomorrow stuff I could do today. :)

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