Mañana: What does it mean?

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On an article that I wrote yesterday, there has been some discussion about the Philippines being the land of Mañana. Well, what exactly does Mañana mean?

I just went to and looked it up. There are a number of listings shown there but here is what most of them say:


1. Tomorrow
2. An unspecified future time

Hmm… very interesting! Seems that the problem comes in when it is an “unspecified future time.” Pete mentioned in the comments on that post that the Philippines has a Mañana culture. He talked about how nothing much gets done on time. If you go to a lawyer to pick up some papers that he is supposed to have ready, it’s usually not done. Mañana. It will be done at some future (unspecified) time. It’s really true, much of the time.

Flowers from WowPhilippines

It seems that the Mañana mentality is really in existence in most countries that were colonized by the Spaniards. It is a Spanish word, after all, so I guess that makes sense. Why is it?



In surfing the net, I found an interesting article by a fellow named Shep Lenchek. Shep is an American who is living in Mexico. Seems that he has the life that a lot of us talk about here (and some of us actually live out), except he is in Mexico instead of the Philippines. Shep’s article has the title, “Is it Mañana yet?” I really like the title. It shows a sort of sub-meaning that “tomorrow may never come,” if you know what I mean. As westerners, we are used to doing everything on time, within a schedule. We feel pressure to get things done. If we don’t show up on time, we feel bad. Here in the Philippines, if you do show up on time, it can be considered rude! Can you imagine? But, we have to adjust, and get used to that. It is, honestly one of the hardest things for me.

Shep says:

Reassured, we headed for south of the border. Never even wondered why we didn’t find the word when we first tried to look it up. It should have been a warning to us. Like many things in Mexico, it just isn’t that simple. It was only after we lived here for a while that we began to understand the word. It certainly does mean tomorrow when saying good-by, but at other times, maybe not. We found out the true meaning of the word, when a plumber, electrician, carpenter, auto mechanic or other tradesman told us he will take care of our problem Mañana.

He didn’t mean tomorrow at all, just, – not today.” By now, we know the word also means, “in the morning”. When the man we’re waiting for doesn’t show up we start to wonder. Did he mean Mañana, tomorrow, or en la Mañana, some morning of some Mañana? We’re learning that Mexican society operates within its own time frame. It leaves time for socializing and attending to personal affairs. It gives priority to living rather than working. It also produces a word, momentito. The accompanying hand signal given with the first finger and thumb, indicates a small delay. The actual wait can stretch almost to infinity. Always carry a good book. Maybe a biggie, like ”Gone with the Wind.” A friend of mine swears he read the whole bible, during momentitos. He sure can quote scripture!

Ha ha… As far as I know, there is no Filipino word for “momentito” but maybe their should be. Well, one thing they do say here is “unya na lang,” or “just later.” That really drives home the Mañana attitude, don’t you think.

When it comes to daily life, maybe the Mañana attitude is better for our health. You’ve heard of the book, “Don’t sweat the small stuff?” Well, it seems that what our Filipino (and Mexican) friends are telling us is that the things that we consider to be important are really the “small things,” and those things that we consider less important are really the most important things in life. The business stuff can wait for Mañana. The family and personal things take priority. But, can we ever learn those lessons? I know that it has been difficult for me.

Shep goes on to give sage advice:

The secret of living here happily is to adopt the Mexican time-frame. When you do, you will find yourself free from deadlines, unafraid to postpone things or be late for appointments. Take the time to talk with friends, smell the flowers. Retire from the stress that the clock and calendar have imposed on us. We are not going to change the habits of our Mexican hosts. We came of our own free will. We were welcomed. Let us act as guests.

I think every one of us can learn from that one paragraph. If we all adapted to the Mexican, or Filipino time frame, maybe we could add a few years to our lives. It’s one less thing for us to worry about, right?

Great article, Shep! Good luck to you with your life in Mexico!

Post Author: MindanaoBob (941 Posts)

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur who is based in Davao. Bob is an American who has lived permanently in Mindanao since May 2000. Here in Mindanao, Bob has resided in General Santos City, and now in Davao City. Bob is the owner of this website and many others.

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  1. Graham says

    Hi Bob
    You are right if more of us took time to relax and go with the flow and remember that things are slower here,then it would definitely lower the blood pressure.
    I remember years ago i used to struggle to keep my temper when i was always told for a while (which normally means waiting hours) or come back in the morning.
    My wife has taught me why worry, its out of our control just go with it, and accept that you have not the stress that you brought from your own country, so relax if its not today it will be soon. Once i got used to this way of thinking, well to be truthfull i think it made me a better person and a more relaxed one.I think our lives are lived so fast at home that many of us take many years to learn how to relax here! Now im used to it i love it

  2. says

    Hi Graham – I keep telling myself to accept the slower pace, and I do see some improvement in my outlook. But, I never can seem to totally overcome my embedded desire to keep moving quickly. Can you give some pointers on how you overcame the habit?

  3. rick says

    Bob / Graham

    Good discussiona and article here and an interesting thing is that my wife has got used to the faster way we do things in the uk and when we go back to davao, she has to accept a slower way of life and has some impatient times as a result.

    i guess when we both retire to davao next year we will slowly pick up the slower pace of life, which should be easy to adopt but as per the article and comments, is more difficult than it appears to be

    me, like you, Bob and Graham i will strive to accept and relax, sure it will lead to more relaxed way of living (yes frustrating at times) but in the end more pastoral, is that the correct word…….

  4. Graham says

    Hi Bob- this is going to be a minefield answer as what's good for me, may not be good for you or your readers. in the country that we originate from we all seek to succeed, its almost always in bred in us to think of our and our children's future.
    So life becomes fast and even faster. The need to earn money becomes more important than living. There is no truer saying than what is a modern slave? its the middle class of your country, with a promise of a retirement that will be all you wish, when to get there all your doing is paying loans, tax for a retirement that will not be your dream!
    I think that's why so many of us move abroad with the money they have got, look for that retirement dream that should be!. But when we get to the Philippines things are strange, its not like home, but then again this is your new home. There is nothing that we are used to no customer survive no complaints department,If you get angry you make a fool of yourself! And to be honest i have done that and been there and been angry does not make you feel better!
    What makes me more relaxed is my wife, and the fact that i know if i want to get my papers or what ever else i need is just give a normally 200p os 300p in a piece of folded paper and its there the next day
    Is this right no it's not, but this my new home and that's how things are. Its the system here so go with the flow.
    As for money have i enough to retire on no i have not and like Bob im using the internet, while im writing this i should be putting up my next 3 sites ready for next week. if anyone wants to look at them let me know?
    The only advice i can offer is while here keep the side of your life(if you need to) that wants money, the rest of the time is enjoy where you are, relax a little you only have one life! There are so many beautiful places to see and would never get chance to see if you stayed at home. so Bob I suppose im saying to you, keep the money side going but each day get a cut off time and enjoy enjoy. Today's stress is tomorrows worry if you let it be

  5. says

    Hi everyone, on reading your comments I find myself in that position also, lets be serious, we have all been in that queue at this government office or that one in the Philippines, its always the same ! come back to tomorrow, my own personal experiences of the Manana sub culture are centered around obtaining documents for marriage, passports and emigration, lets be candid, we are all from a culture where we are used to getting it now ! I have found that being in country grows on you, I can even remember arriving at Naia a couple of years ago, we had just arrived at Terminal 1 from Hong Kong, it was hot, we were tired, and waiting for a taxi, so we stood there and stood there, 20 minutes went by, still no taxi for us ! well I could see my Gina getting frustrated, she turned and said to me "Why can't we get a damn taxi in this country " ? with shock and awe, I turned around and looked at her face, could this be real ? was this the woman that was telling me, this is how it is ! you have to wait ? or this is how we do things here ! someone pinch me please because I think its a different person, well I could only think of these words to say to the woman I had taken out of the Philippines for a honeymoon in Singapore and what is even funnier, is that it was only for 5 days, and it goes like this "Welcome Home Honey !"

    What struck me as pretty poignant is that it didn't take very long for someone who had lived in the Philippines all her life and then to leave it for such a short time to see how things are done in more modern and economically richer countries, in the end I had to relax her by saying, one will come today sometime my love, do not despair, after all, its the Philippines, about 5 minutes later, our taxi allocated to us turned up, and we jumped in, I will never forget that story, and you are all right, getting frustrated runs up the blood pressure, I think Graham made a great point in his post, if you get angry, you make a fool of yourself, congratulations Graham, because I think thats a great peice of advice, dont get angry, you look like a fool, act calmly and see what is best to be done.

  6. Graham says

    Hi Rick- im sure it will not take you or your wife much time to take a slower pace of life, yes it can be frustrating at times. But the main thing is to remember why your there and that's retire.ENJOY and please don't become a person who knocks the Philippines like DH or PG. Im sure Bob knows who i mean, one has a web site and one pretends to write books on the Philippines

  7. Graham says

    Hi Pete-Thanks for the compliment. losing your temper can only not only lead to making a fool of yourself in the Philippines, can can get you arrested so all please be warned and pete im in the uk at the mo ait hering next week, any advice would be much appreciated

  8. rick says

    Graham / Bob

    Thanks Graham, i will not be a negative person in the Philippines because actually i really do like it there, sure frustrations are real but as discussed above we need to relax and enjoy……..good points made here by all thanks

  9. Louis says

    I like the pace of life here, tomorrow? Ugma? Manana? Whatever you want to call it I'm used to it now. If I let t get to me then I would have already had a heart attack from all the paperwork we needed for the marriage… and all the seminars to attend… yikes, but then again they're serious… there is no divorce here.

    Bob- What I meant about the USA being a manana country is when you have to deal with the government… 9 months it took me to clear eveverything with Soc. Sec. so my mother could get disability payments. It was always call back tomorrow… or next week… or that person was out of the office. Not so different from the PI diba? The Philippines may have gotten Manana from the Spanish but their beaurocracy is pure American.

  10. AmericanLola says

    Kadali lang, ha? For a while, Maam-Sir! Ugma, tingali, Sir.

    After almost twenty years living in Mindanao, I think we have pretty much adjusted our expectations. I take a book to the bank, or a palm top with a nice game on it. I don't expect people to be 'on time' and if I prepare food too early for my guests, then I am only frustrated with myself for not having planned more realistically. But being late myself, on purpose, is about the hardest thing for me to do! Once someone gives me a number representing the starting time of an event, my little internal clock begins to tick and I am mentally mapping what needs to happen between now and THAT time… Never mind that the hostess will still be in her duster if I arrive at the time I was told that the party would begin. Never mind that the only people who will be at the auditorium will be the crew setting up the sounds system. Never mind that the bride and groom will only arrive an hour from now for their wedding.

    But I recently read an article on what they called 'hot climate cultures' which said that local people generally look at the time given for an event as the time to begin getting ready to leave for that event, NOT the the starting time for the event. Looking at it that way, I can be fashionably late!

  11. brian says

    I love her dearly but my filipina wife drives me nuts with that attitude, she has gotten infinitly better over the years, funny thing is when we go 'back home ( PI) ' she gets more irrate than I .lol

  12. Graham says

    My wife- Always says to me there are two times in the world. A western time that is rush -rush and a Phill time that is you are never late, funny thing is when i think about it she might just be right, being never late and always welcome is quite nice and a lot more relaxing. i remember years ago when we were invited to her brothers 40th birthday, i was in such a stress because we were 1hr late, all my wife kept saying was don't worry. Well i was worried 1hr late is bad or i thought so, yet we were the first guests there, to my wife smug grin that might as well have said i told you so. Then i realised its time to relax and go with the flow

  13. Tina says

    Hi Bob,

    There IS a word for "momentito" in Filipino. It is "kadali" in Bisaya, "sandali" in Tagalog or "for awhile" in Filipino English. ;-)

    Having lived in NYC for 24 years, I am used to the fast pace of the "city that never sleeps". I can appreciate how everyone feels about this laidback Filipino attitude.

    All I can say to everyone is: Patience is a virtue.

    There is a prayer that goes "…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."

    I think this prayer says it all… Have a good Philippine day everyone! :-)

  14. says

  15. says

    Hi Rick – My wife, after living 10 years in the States also had a hard time adjusting back to the slower lifestyle here. She has adjusted pretty well, though, but it took time.

    Hi Graham – I really know what you are saying! I have made a fool of myself by getting angry way too many times! At the moment it happens you are so angry, and you let it out, which feels right. But, just a few minutes later you feel so stupid, and know that people thought you are a fool! No matter how you wish, you can't take it back, either. You vow to not do it like that again, and maybe you restrain yourself, but it will happen again in the future. Very frustrating! Good idea about setting a "cut off time" for business activity, and getting on with life!

    Hi Pete – Your story about Gina getting upset waiting for a taxi is a classic! I have seen it from Feyma many times too. Of course, I don't want to forget that I am guilty more often than she is! But, it is quite poignant that somebody from here can so easily forget and move on from the culture here after just a few years of living abroad!

    Hi Graham – I know just what you mean about those characters. Enough said about them, though. ;-)

    Hi Louis – I had a stroke in 2001, about a year and a half after moving here. A big part of it was letting things stress me too much. I am much better about being calmer about things now, and not letting them bother me as much. I am not all the way there yet, I have work to do, but I want to accept and even embrace the Mañana culture! Thankfully, I fully recovered from the stroke. It was a wake up call for me, though.

    AmericanLola – Ah… Kadali lang.. I forgot about that! Indeed, it is similar to the Mexican word, isn't it! I have to admit that I get edgy if I feel I am going to be late, it bothers me. Last night we went out for dinner with some friends. We were to meet them at the Restaurant at 7:30. We got there at 7:15, and I was sitting there thinking to myself "why did we come this early, I should have known that it wasn't necessary." Our friends were right on time at 7:30. No reason for us to have been early!

    Hi Brian – Ha ha… that's a classic! Been there, done that! ;-)

    Hi Graham – I have really been in your shoes when it comes to being late. Being late makes me nervous, it bothers me, and I feel that I will be embarrassed because of being late. But, it almost always works out that I'm the first person there!

    Hi Tina – Yep, you are right about the word kadali. You and AmericanLola think alike! Patience is indeed a virtue, I just have to learn it, though!

  16. Nestor says

    Hi Bob,
    I think you are right in saying Patience is a virtue. It is also related to prioritization — what's important right now? what can I control and therefore what can I influence. Manana to me as a Filipino means — I'll do that later because there is something more important that I can get results now. Doesn't that make sense? Now, remember, red tape is something the goverment is trying to improve on. But the resources (ie cash, money) are simply not there to improve systems. You are in a developing country after all. That's the shock.
    On being late — I don't care what other Filipinos think, I always ask the host, "what time should I be there?" and stick to it. My choice if I am early.

    Best regards
    Nestor in Chicago

  17. says

    Hi Nestor – Interesting about the prioritizing aspect of the Manana culture. Honestly, I think that a lot of us westerners feel that when somebody doesn't show up to do some work that they promised to do, they are just being lazy. In reality, we don't realize that they may have other work that must be done first, or like you say take priority over the job we need done. It is indeed a shock, and one that we must learn to deal with.

    On the whole "being late" thing, I am noticing that a lot of Filipinos are actually trying to shed the whole "Filipino Time" mentality and actually be on time for things. It's great to see that happening.

  18. Tina says

    Hi Bob,

    Just thought that this "manana habit" must have been introduced by the Spaniards. I'm just thankful that stores don't close in the Philippines for "siesta" from 1-4pm like some European countries do! Then, we're really in trouble! ;-)

  19. says

    Hi Tina – I didn't realize that such a practice was done in Europe! I know it is in Mexico and other Latin countries. Of course, many of the stores here do close during lunch time, which is a whole new discussion!

  20. kiarizona says

    On being late-I have always tried to be on time and on time means 15 minutes early. This is always the scenario everytime I have an appointment with somebody or meet a friend:
    Me: You are 1 hour late! Grabe ka!
    Friend: Nadugayan lagi ko, sorry lang gud. Ganiha pa diay ka?
    Me: 7:45, ky 8:00 man atong sabot.
    Friend: Sayo diay ka, eh?
    Moral Lesson of the story: If you came on time and you had to wait too long, it's your fault.

  21. says

    Hi Kiarizona – Right you are! The whole "15 minutes early = on time" is such an American attitude! It just doesn't work here.

  22. Laurence says


    My wife informs me that she uses the Tagalog tems "Bahala na" (God knows when) and "Mamaya na" (later).

  23. says

    Hi Laurence – Thanks for sharing! I am more used to the Bisaya, since I live in Mindanao, so it's good to have input on the Tagalog as well.

  24. jonathan says

    Well Bob, here in the mid-east they frequently use the term “inshallah” similar to the manana habit of our country. And everything is more laid back here.

  25. Weil says

    In PI, you should always plan ahead. If you have a certain event or a party, invite your guest 2 hours advance lead time of the original schedule – for sure your guest arrives on time.

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