Time In The Philippines: More or Less

Today, I am happy to welcome a new writer to the site!  Henry Velez is joining the LiP writing team, and I am very happy to have him here.  Henry has been a friend on Facebook for a long time, and I have always enjoyed following him there.  Henry moved to the Philippines just a few weeks ago, and I think it will be very interesting to follow his introduction to living in the Philippines.  Welcome aboard, Henry, and I’m happy you decided to join us here on LiP!  MindanaoBob

Back in 2005 I was working my 20th year as a plastics engineering tech for a major company.  I was getting good pay, fantastic benefits, huge five-figure bonuses and lots of vacation time.  Life in the material sense was pretty darn good.  Yet I was unhappy.  While 20 years of doing any job can become uninteresting, it wasn’t even the job that bothered me.  It was ‘Time’.   All my time was spent insid a window-less lab working with machines and usually the same five or six fellow employees.  Year after year I saw my life and the irreplaceable time just slipping away like the proverbial sand from the hour-glass, never to return.

Henry Velez
Henry Velez

It caused me much introspection.  On the one hand, if I just ‘hung in there’ and didn’t lose my sanity for another 15 YEARS.. I could retire with a hefty pension and whatever my 401k was doing plus social security.  But I’d be over 60 at that point and would have sacrificed my youth to the confines of the same, off-yellow colored walls day after day to the same humming and drone of the machines I worked with.  I couldn’t do it.  Something had to change and I was the one who had to change it.  I decided, quietly and much like a prisoner planning an escape, that the only solution was to get myself back OUT THERE.. outdoors where there are colors and sounds in the arena known as ‘Life’.  I wrote a 3-page resignation letter and fixed a date 6 months out to execute my last day at a job many people would have gladly wanted.  The one reality of my priorities that kept resounding within me was a cry that said, over and over again, “I want my Time back!“.

What does this have to do with life in the Philippines?  It all comes down to ‘Time’.  Even after I left my secure job and went into business for myself as a PC Repair Tech.. Time was still an issue.  I now had more of it, and it felt GREAT!  My time was flexible.  I met lots of fantastic new clients every week, many of whom have become very close friends to this day.  Yet despite my best efforts at structured time-management.. it seemed I was still running just a bit short of time for the things that mattered to me most.

And then I moved to the Philippines.

Plenty of time
Plenty of time

Many, if not perhaps most, of the ex-pats who move here are already in their retirement bracket and living from their social security income.  That’s many, but not all.  On any given day I’ll see a young, 30-ish, American at the malls with his Filipina wife wearing sandals (not shoes) and looking like he’s been here for quite some time.  But for the most part it’s an older, matured ex-pat I run into.  In my own case, I’m currently 49 and so earning money online is something I need to think about every day.  I have a small amount I can count on from a rental back home, but earning more is still on the agenda if I want to really explore all the Philippines has to offer.

And yet, even in my own case, I suddenly have such an abundance of time.  And not in a boring way, mind you.  I never sit around bored.  Tired, exhausted, maybe.. but never bored.  And as I look about me at the many Filipinos going about their daily routine, earning a living, even they seem to have such an abundance of Time.  It’s a very subtle thing to pick up on, but back in the States, even when relaxing with friends over the weekend it seems like we’re trying to pack in as much conversation and places as possible into our ‘relaxation’ time because there’s this urgency about the American culture that says, “Time is short and you need to live hard and you gotta play hard!“.  That seems like such a distant, crazy concept to me from where I sit now.

I recently made some new friends and they invited me to their home last Sunday.  We leisurely had a fantastic lunch.  We karaoke’d.  We raced RC boats on a small pond nearby.  We cracked open coconuts and enjoyed some wine together.  It was truly a relaxing enjoyment of an abundance of time.  And Sunday is their only day off.  Yet there was no rush.  Their hospitality was ever so gracious.  It was like we had all the time in the world.

Cebu Airport
Cebu Airport

Does time slow down here in the Philippines?  Einstein stated that Time was flexible, relative to speed and mass.  Another theory is that Time is only a concept and does not exist at all, we are ever present in just one ‘moment’ and what we call the ‘past’ is only a memory of previous movements.  Either way, all I know is that it isn’t just my own perception.  Everyone here seems to live their life with the assurance that there is plenty of ‘Time’ to go around for everybody.  There’s always time for family.  There’s always time to meet a friend for lunch.  Is it the humidity that makes for such a perception, perhaps?  When I used to visit Corpus Christi, Texas (where the humidity is in the 80’s and the temp goes over 100*F).. life, for me, was just miserable.  I wanted Time to end.  I wanted nothing but relief from the heat.

But not so in the Philippines.  I feel relaxed.  I don’t feel rushed.  And I don’t feel the guilty pangs of procrastination that I used to feel back in the States either.  Three days ago I decided to return a power-down transformer to the Mall for an exchange.  Three days later (today) I made the exchange.  I didn’t want to go in the heat, so I waited for evening.  But then I decided to cook at home and.. well, the exchange could wait another day.  It might not wait too many days or they could refuse the return, but I knew I had some time to work with.

I’d love to hear from the other, long-term, ex-pats who have lived here what their perception has been.  Is an abundance of Time one of the many perks to living here?  Is it only perceptional or an actual reality?  What do you have time for here that you didn’t back home?  I think back to any given day back home and even if I didn’t have to ‘go somewhere’.. there was always a list demanding my attention that it be crammed into THAT day.  But.. not so much here.  And I could get used to that.

Post Author: Henry Velez (10 Posts)

Henry Velez is a recent (2012) addition to the Philippines and brings with him a fresh set of eyes as well as a talent for bringing his first-hand observations clearly to the reader. Motivated by both a life-long passion for writing, as well as for a Filipina he met in the US, Henry dove right in and made the move to the Philippines 'sight unseen'. He currently maintains three blogs, one which is devoted to his adventures here, and is currently working on a fictional novel set in the Philippines. We wish him the best of luck in his new adventures!

How to Move to the Philippines Manual


  1. says

    Henry: I am very sure you will have a great and memorable experience living in provincial Philippines (MACTAN), where slow and relax living is still a reality. Forget Manila or Makati or any other big cities where traffic, pollution and noise is still the norm. Welcome to LIP and I am looking forward to read more articles from you. Good Day!

    • says

      Thank you. I had done some reading since last year (much of it here) to get an idea of where I would eventually decide to live once I got here. Davao, Manilla, Cebu City, Mindenao, even Bahol. (sp?) It was during the last four months that I finally decided on Mactan.

      Since arriving I believe I made the right choice. Manila is, for me, too much like Los Angeles, CA.. very urbanized and busy. In Mactan I can always catch a taxi to the SM Mall in Cebu for some clean, interesting walkabouts in the air-con and catch a good movie. Then return to my quiet little place here. :)

  2. RandyL says

    Henry, I do believe that time slows down for many of us who step off the tarmac at NAIA. On the first full day after arriving during our recent visit last April, I remember waking up that morning, without any sense of urgency, and without any desire to look at the time. After getting dressed and refreshed, the family all sat around enjoying pandesol, coffee, and conversation. After breakfast, I piddled around a bit, handed out some more little gifts I brought back with me to the kids, observed the nieces and nephews interact with each other, watched a little TV, and joined in a conversation or two with the elders while people came and went, all the while working in the bahay “kitchen’s” (indoor and dirty kitchen) making preparations for the next meal. After some more time had passed, the call for “breakfast” went out. Funny, because I thought we had already eaten breakfast.(pandesol and coffee was just the run-up to the breakfast feast). In bewilderment, while looking at the clock that read 12:05 above the door, I proclaimed that I thought it was near lunchtime, only to get several return chuckles and laughs with the reply “Oh, that clock has been broken for about 6 months”. I was told it was only 9 o’clock! I then thought, I can sure get used to this!

    • says

      Ha! Yep.. I can so relate. Yesterday I only knew it was either Wed, Thur and maybe it was Friday. Unless I make a point to check my online calendar (which now has events every couple days instead of every couple hours).. it’s easy to lose track of the days. I really was surprised when it was time for my first 21-Day Visa renewal! All in all.. I think being more relaxed has got to be good health overall.

  3. Paul Thompson says

    In 2000 I came home to the Philippines after my last ship, the firdt day I took off my Rado Watch and handed it to my wife’s father. As I knew that I’d never need to know what time it was, ever again. Twelve years later, and I have to ask my daughter what day is it?

    • says

      I’m the same way with my cell phone. I brought my old one just so I could (eventually.. I’ll get around to it) punch the contacts into my MagicJack. But back home my cell phone rang all through the day. I used to change the ringtone regularly because I got so sick of hearing it all the time.

      Then I got here. I have a super-simple ‘stupid phone’ (not smart-phone) that has only 3 saved Contact numbers in it. My g/f, her sister and the maid. That’s it. No more ringing every hour.. kinda nice!

  4. Roxas Ron says


    Another great read and perspective. Although not there full time yet (516 days) I can appreciate Time. After three six weeks laid back visits with my family I fully experienced the Time factor the moment I stepped of the plane in Atlanta and all hell broke lose again. Waiting for the permanent reversal. Salamat

    • says

      Wishing you all the best in your plans for going full-time! I can’t remember if it was George Carlin or Howie Mandell who once did a skit while standing on a tall box from a corner of the stage.. saying, “Sometimes, you just gotta change your vantage-point.. suddenly, everything looks different! Try it.” And I did, I got on a big rock and took a fresh look around at what was always so familiar and it DID change my perspective.

      Ever since then, years ago, I’ve been looking at life from ‘outside the box’. I don’t think I even know where the box is anymore. ha! But making the move here definitely has had a great, positive impact on my perception of Time. Hoping to see you enjoy it on a long-term basis soon! :)

  5. Scott Fortune says

    Henry, that was my experience too. I never had a cell phone with me. I never wear a watch. I didn’t know what time it was, and you know what? I never cared! We were late to our own engagement party, but I couldn’t care less. I was with the one I loved, and time didn’t seem to matter to me anymore. That was one of the MANY things about the Philippines that I got used to really fast! But then, I returned home to schedules, timelines, and appointments. Even to this day, while retired, I stress over time. I know I shouldn’t, but American is run on timelines and the stresses to show up on time. I had a doctor appointment today. Was there on time, 11:15am. When did the doctor arrive? At 12:15pm just as I was walking out the door. He stopped me and asked if I was leaving. Yeah, I was! I have better things to do with my time than be wasted by him.

    Maybe in the Philippines I’ll settle down a bit. Enjoy your life there my friend! I’ll be there next year with my wife.

  6. says

    I think ‘letting go’ of our usual rushed pace from ‘back home’ is going to be a necessity for anyone to adjust here. When I first arrived I needed lots of little items for the kitchen and studio that I hadn’t room for to pack with me. So my very first afternoon off the plane I was walking down the street to Mall and hardware store.

    I’m used to ‘grab it, pay for it, get out’. People here took the time fill out my warranty card, plug in appliances I bought to make sure they worked or took the time to suggest other items I might need. I had nowhere else to go that day so I didn’t mind. Now I know it’s how things are done here.

    Back home.. yah, it’s whole other ball game. Not missing it though. :)

  7. Mark G. says

    Good article Henry.
    Welcome to LIP. I look forward to more. I feel the same as everyone else here; things are less rushed and time just doesn’t matter as much in the Philippines. It’s one of the things that make the ‘time’ in the Philippines that much more special. Thanks for the good read.
    Mark G.

    • says

      Your welcome, and thanks for the comment. One other thing that I’ve pondered is, “If I ever went back to the States.. could I still maintain my current perception of ample time over there?” I don’t mean showing up late for appointments. But having that same feeling of not being rushed?

      From what I read here it seems the ‘urgency’ is put upon us as soon as we’re back in our home country. Well.. I guess that’s just one of the things that makes the Philippines so special.

  8. josephine panginen says

    hi henry. i dont know what i am doing here since i am not an ex pat nor in a relationship with one. i do have an american friend though who must have written a comment and it appeared in my timeline. am glad because i got a really good read.

    actually, you dont really have to be anywhere in the world outside the philippines to feel what you felt back home. it’s more like being in the wrong place. i lived in manila for 24 years and i could say everything you said about time made the two of us. it’s a fast paced world and you have to keep running to keep up. i finally got tired and came home. home is a little town where almost everybody knows everybody. it’s a desolate and forgotten place. a dot in the map. yet it’s where my heart is and that’s what make all the difference.

    i have a thousand and one things to say but i know you know them already anyway so i will just say, welcome to the philippines henry and enjoy.

    • says

      I think you’ve hit onto something important there, Josephine. My g/f, from Cebu, went to visit relatives for the first time who live in Kansas, USA, about two months ago. She said it was so nice there.. slower lifestyle, friendly people and a sense of community. For this reason I have no inclination to visit Manila.. too many other ‘small town’ areas of the Philippines to visit first! :)

  9. Gary M says

    Henry, I can see you will adjust to Philippine “Time” quite nicely. I enjoyed reading your article and look forward to more to come…in all due time. My last overseas posting was in Japan, and I was on the staff of US Naval Forces Japan, which owned all bases in the Orient to include Diego Garcia. Since I was in charge of the IT infrastructure on all the bases, I got to visit Diego Garcia once with some other staff members. When we got back, I remember my chief of staff saying if I only had six months left to live, I would go to Diego Garcia because it would seem like an eternity. I look forward to when I’m not chasing time here in Virginia and can decompress on a nice visit to Valenzula City where my wife hails from, and not worry about time (until its time to leave). Think I’ll wait until the floods subsides first though….

    • says

      Thanks. My son was stationed in Okinawa and was an IT Specialist on base there. Like me, he’s a total Net/PC Junkie. Meanwhile, seems like anyone who’s ever had to leave the Philippines longs to return. That’s a good sign. :)

  10. Ricardo Sumilang says

    Hi Henry – My opinion of time is that it has nothing to do with geography. It moves at the same pace wherever you are, and waits for no man. Time is what you make of it, whether you are in the West or in the Philippines. Life in the West is faster paced because almost everyone is stumbling over one another in pursuit of the golden dream. In the Philippines, there is no golden dream worth pursuing with a vengeance as in the West, let alone surviving. Can you blame Filipinos for being so laid back? That time moves slowly in the Philippines is simply an illusion, a perception generally held by visitors from the West, as already explained above, and retired expats who no longer punch the clock for a living and have retired to the Philippines. I suspect that folks who fall under this category probably do not have a hobby, nor do they do volunteer work to keep them occupied both mentally and physically. If all you do is shoot the breeze with other expats at the local McDonald’s all day, it’s not really that hard to figure out why such expats find an abundance of time in their hands and also find that time moves slowly in the Philippines.

    • RandyL says

      Hi Ricardo. The inspiration of the Beatles song “Eight Days a Week” has been attributed by Paul McCartney to comments made by Ringo about working very hard. I think if Paul and John Lennon (co-writers of the song) would have spent time in the Philippines, they would have had to rethink the lyrics as the song would take on a completely different meaning.

  11. says

    As I mentioned above, I never find myself ‘bored’. In fact, so far every day I’ve been ending the day exhausted from either doing some walking or other minor exploring of my new surroundings. I do agree that it’s best to have a hobby or interest. People who are unhappy at home will find they are unhappy here because, as you noted, the issue is not geography. The problem is with them.

    The Filipinos I see here, who are busy working very hard to make a living, also enjoy a slower pace of life. Not just the vendors who sit most of the day hoping for a customer, but people I know who work as an engineer and as a sales clerk at an appliance store. Jobs similar to those in the West. And yet, here, they shared with me a very relaxing Sunday at their home with no rushing about at all.

    As for hanging out with ex-pats at the local McDonald’s.. from what I hear, not a good habit to start. For one, I can’t stand McDonald’s. For another, I can’t stand whiners who focus on the negative of life.

  12. bret says

    My asawa and I Are looking to make the move within 10 ys. After reading this it article and post from Henry it just jumped to 8 yrs! Everytime I spent 2 weeks in Davao and Tagum it was like time stood still, wories melted away and I would forget about “back in USA” then I would get back to “reality and lost time”.

    • says

      That’s great that since you’ve already visited you know that you like it and want to return. In my case, I jumped in with both feet ‘sight unseen’ and took a leap of faith. And so glad I did! :) Wishing you safe travels back here to the ‘land of abundant time’.

  13. Mitch says

    Not sure if I even want to bring our clocks with us on our move to PI…. Looking forward to starting a new life….. wheels up in 270 hours!!!

  14. PalawanBob says

    No shopping malls for me.
    I never felt comfortable living in a big city.
    Today I live 135km away from Puerto Princessa City and feel very privileged to have Internet while listening to the birds and enjoying the spectacular sea view while sitting in my living room.
    Have a look.
    Actually I live so far off civilisation that sometimes I don’t see any strangers for weeks.
    Surprisingly, when visitors come they don’t want to leave!
    I wonder why?… Just kidding.

    • PapaDuck says

      Welcome to LIP. Very well written and enjoyable to read. Looking forward to reading your prospective on life in the Philippines in future articles. I will be visiting there to the Cavite area in Oct. Will be moving there permanantly in July 2014 when i retire. Will get a jump on Philippine time 5-6 months prior to that. Have to take unused vacation time that i won’t be able cash in. Wish i could leave than, but unfortunately i won’t be able to. Will stay busy doing something, w/o any timeframe to worry about. Take care.

      • says

        I hear Oct is when things start heating up around here. I’ve been able to ‘break in’ to the humidity during this cooler season and been loving it. Best traveling wishes on your next jaunt out here. As I look back on it, those in-flight hours were SO worth it to get here! :)

  15. says

    Great article Henry!
    I don’t know how many readers of this live in rural cities/towns in the Vasayans but not only does time slow down, it goes backwards.
    I always have felt like I went back in time to another age. In my first visit in ’96 I felt like I went back in time 50 years.
    I’ve made my annual pilgrimage here nearly every year since then. I still feel like I step back in time but its not quite the culture shock that it was on my first arrival, maybe 20 years now.
    Sure these little small areas are “catching up” with America but I hope they never get there.

    • says

      Back in the 90’s I spent a lot of time going for 2 or 3 day jaunts to Mexico. Mostly the border towns like Tijuana, Rosarito, Ensenada.. later to Tecate for other reasons. What I liked about it was that when I was there I KNEW I was in a different country. Different language, different food, different customs.. it was a whole other environment.

      But then, around 1992, I could see the beginning of the end. Revolucion Ave. was one of my favorite hang-out spots and had always been predominately Mexican businesses, bars and ‘other’ entertaining places to drop in on. But then they put in a Hard Rock Cafe. And then a KFC chicken place.. then a Denny’s. Pretty soon it had so many American franchises it became no different than going to a ghetto section of Santa Ana or San Bernardino, CA. American Rap Music blaring.. that’s when I stopped going. (the accelerate crime didn’t help either)

      Point is.. I love the Philippines for what it is. I don’t want a Philippine-version of the US.. ever. A franchise in the bigger malls every once in a while, okay, I can handle that. But I love it the way it is and any improvements it makes over the years I am hoping will be from within so that it retains it’s culture and charm that I enjoy so much.

  16. Ricardo Sumilang says

    “Point is.. I love the Philippines for what it is. I don’t want a Philippine-version of the US.. ever. A franchise in the bigger malls every once in a while, okay, I can handle that. But I love it the way it is and any improvements it makes over the years I am hoping will be from within so that it retains it’s culture and charm that I enjoy so much.” – H.V.

    Exactly my thinking. However, the fondness I have for the Philippines is hardly diminished by the visual attributes of a megalopolis that is chic and sophisticated because I know that its heart and soul – the Filipino culture – remains unaltered despite the outward modern veneer. The jeepneys, for example, are an endearing part of this culture, as are the “yes, ma’am, yes, sir” sing-song of pretty young Pinays everywhere, they who are almost all petite and sporting the same, identical shiny, black hair cut shoulder length. But, for all the glitz found in Manila, it is in the idyllic setting of the provinces where I personally find the real Philippines. It is also where, in my opinion, superstitions and beliefs are more apparent and combine to shape a unique, but an endaring way of life that can be admired and experienced to the fullest.

    • says

      I’ve been to the SM Mall in Cebu, which itself (big as it is) isn’t even the biggest one around. I plan to visit Ayala and Frederick Mall soon. I went to the Ontario-Mills Mall in Ontario, California before coming here. Two totally different experiences.

      As you mentioned, the courtesy.. the service.. attention.. part of the culture here, in Ontario Mills Mall, not so much. No clerks spoke with us the whole time unless we were paying for something at the counter.

      But here, as you said, even with the polished look of the big malls it is Filipino at heart. :)

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