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Can someone explain explain “Filipino Time”?

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Time“Filipino time!” my wife’s best friend from high school laughed as she got out of the van she own along with her Kano husband. The smile fled from her face when she saw the expression on mine. My wife immediately grabbed my right hand and squeezed it with an intensity I would not think possible for a 90 lbs. lady. This was my sign to hold my tongue even tighter than my wife was holding my hand or be prepared to face the consequence, probably a 3 day tampo. My wife’s childhood chum made some attempt to explain why she had insisted on us being at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker promptly at 9:00 am for the seminar we had to attend to be God parents for her new born daughter. The seminar started at 10:30 am which she knew because she and her family arrived promptly at 10:20 am. She told us to be there at 9:00 am, because she was afraid we might arrive “Filipino Time.” My wife’s friend of course did not tell that truth she instead told a lie about being confused on when the seminar was to start.

Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker, Tagbilaran, Bohol

Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker, Tagbilaran, Bohol

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My wife, our two boys, my wife’s 75 year old mother and I had gotten up and gotten dressed in clothes appropriate for the occasion. I was wearing a suit designed for a less hot and humid environment. We had walked to the main road at about 7:30 am, because the jeepneys run less on Saturday morning. We waited 15 to 20 minutes for a jeepney with enough seating space available to accommodate our group. We had road the jeepney to Tagbilaran City and caught a trike to Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker, the big church in the middle of the city. We arrived at about 8:45 am.

We knew we were a little early so we walked around looking at the church. I like historic old churches so for a few minutes I was fine. As it got close to 9:00 am, we kind of started walking all around the outside in search of my wife’s friend and family. At some point we just tried to determine which was less uncomfortably hot inside or outside the church. I asked my wife why her friend had not simply picked us up using their van. My wife did not give a clear answer. The truth would have made me even angrier. My wife’s best friend came from a well-to-do family. She felt it was unsafe to even pick us up or drop us off at Mama’s House, because it is in a poor neighborhood. As it was between the heat and humidity, the monkey suit I was wearing, and my increasing anger I was sweating and stewing like a pot of gumbo and feeling like a dumbo. I usually don’t feel hot this early in the day even though Mama’s House is not air conditioned, but I am usually wearing shorts a t-shirt and leather sandals. I think my anger was playing a role as well. My wife and her mom took things in stride. Our boys just seemed bored. My wife’s friend had lived in California with her Kano husband for about 5 years. She knew I was from the USA. I have no idea why she thought we would be more than an hour late.

Godfather

Godfather

The seminar itself started promptly at 10:30 am. I don’t understand Bisayan, but when I made out the lay minister talking about Adam and Eve I figured it to be a lengthy seminar. Twenty minutes later, I made out Noah’s name then 30 minutes later John the Baptist. The seminar was in an air-conditioned trailer, so I was cool and bored into docility. As a result, I looked decent in my required Godfather pictures. This is the end of the story and the beginning of the rant.

My Take on Filipino Time. My take on Filipino Time

My Take on Filipino Time. My take on Filipino Time

I generally like, respect or at least understand Filipino culture and traditions. I don’t have any of the aforementioned thoughts or feelings for “Filipino Time”. My wife sets the alarm clock by our bed 30 minutes in advance. I have no problem with that I can just subtract 30 minutes. If “Filipino Time” was a constant 1 hour late, I could account for it and move on, but no it is not. For some Filipinos “Filipino Time” is an hour, others an hour and a half, still others 2 hours, etc. Even worse some times things happen on time. I just don’t know. I can’t figure it out. My wife now has a part-time job and she is NEVER late for work. We have arrived for parties an hour late and the only person there was the host. We end up helping the host get ready for the other guest who show up 30+ minutes later. Other times we are 30 minutes late and everyone is calling asking when we will be there.

The only part that I get is that appearance is valued higher than punctuality. If I were to spill coffee on my shirt and I knew that I did not have time to change my shirt. I would show up an on time slob, with a stained shirt. My Filipina wife in the same situation would go home and change and be late, but look perfect. This I get as a matter of priorities.  I think this only explains a small percentage of “Filipino Time” cases.

How is “Filipino Time” not just plain rude? Are not you saying when you are late that your time is more valuable than others? I live in the USA. Can someone tell me if Filipinos in the Philippines are better or worse than Filipinos living abroad? Has anyone ever done a study on how much money and business is lost due to “Filipino Time”? Are there any Filipinos reading this article that can explain this aspect of their culture to outsiders? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Jay Stainback

Jay Stainback lives in Raleigh, NC, USA and is hoping/planning to retire to Bohol in about 10 years. He is married to his beautiful Filipina wife Juliet whom he met on-line. They were married 12/7/02 and have two boys’ ages 9 years old and 5 years old. Jay has visited the Philippines 4 times the first time 1 week, the 2nd time 2 weeks, the 3rd time for 3 weeks, the 4th time 4 weeks spending most of their time in Bohol.

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jule
jule
5 years ago

Filipino time is just plain Bastos, I won’t have cook outs or dinners anymore. I do not wait for anyone. Filipinos can eat cold food not me. I love the filipinos but it is a rude culture. cut in line, push you out of the way, They don’t show up for a job they don’t bother letting you know. I won’t do it anymore.

Jay
Jay
5 years ago
Reply to  jule

Hi Jule,

I feel your pain, but….no put lucks! That is kind of drastic. I don’t think I can make it without Lola Pork Blood Stew with pig ear bits! Ooooohhhh pig ear bits! DWIT!

Peace

Jay

Bob
Bob
5 years ago
Reply to  jule

Maybe that’s why Filipinos like cold food. Clean jeepneys and Filipino time is fine, but it would be nice to see a thread started on something like….Is it safe in the Philippines?

Jay
Jay
5 years ago
Reply to  Bob

Hi Bob,

The only safe place I know is the grave. Are you safe in France? are you safe in the USA? in India?

I feel safe in Bohol at Mama’s House when I visit. It is in a poor neighborhood although not the poorest. We throw a big party when we get there and many from the village come to enjoy food and fellowship. I do not feel like I need to hide. I really do not know much about other places in the Philippines and I am only a visitor.

Peace

Jay

Celine Lim
Celine Lim
5 years ago
Reply to  Jay

Sorry I just stumbled upon this discussion and this site and if I can just put in my tuppence worth, I would say part of the explanation for Filipino time might have something to do with fear of small talk. It might have to do with a calculation of who they are likely to end up waiting at the venue making small talk with. They can make this calculation because, by being part of an amazing extended social network they get word quickly who is going to be late for some reason and who isn’t, which allows them to adjust… Read more »

Jay
Jay
5 years ago
Reply to  Celine Lim

Hi Celine,

Wow! Thanks for the explanation. It makes a lot of sense. You hit on the Filipino tendency to want to avoid confrontation and not wanting to be put on a spot. The intricacies of Filipino culture are astounding. I have been married to a Filipna for over 12 years, but there are aspects I am just starting to understand. Reading comments like yours help a great deal.

Peace

Jay

Michael
Michael
5 years ago

Thanks for the morning laugh Jay, I can relate on so many levels. It’s not only Filipinos who practice Filipino time, although I do think they’ve perfected it.

My Wife warns on my behalf that when I make an appointment they need to be “on time on time, not on time Filipino time” lol. I’m getting better at accepting though, “what you can do, it’s part of life”

Jay
Jay
5 years ago
Reply to  Michael

Hi Michael,

I am glad someone is getting some joy out of my pain! Thanks for commenting! I have adapted to it pretty much. I still feel that it is a Filipino social custom that they would be well advised to change. They talk about American time being on-time. Honestly my on-time is usually 10 minutes early….well it used to be before I married My Queen. She is the best though. I got the better end of the deal Filipino Time and all!

Peace

Jay

Nilda
5 years ago
Reply to  Michael

Great positive attitude Michael! Wherever you go NO one is perfect!

Nilda

Gerardo Reynaldo
5 years ago

For me, my fellow Pinoys just ‘like’ to do it because we’re in our country. But when travelling or living abroad, we’re on time. it’s not only in the Ph; there’s also ‘Indonesian’ time which i experiences in Manado.

Jay
Jay
5 years ago

Hi Gerardo,

My wife is always on time for her part time job, other than that…its a struggle. I have gotten her used to making it on church on time. Social gathering with Fil-Am’s I let her make the call and I don’t worry about it.

Peace

Jay

Carl Duell
5 years ago

when you figure it out, let me know lol

Jay
Jay
5 years ago
Reply to  Carl Duell

Hi Carl,

Will do! I wouldn’t be holding my breath though.

Peace

Jay

Gerald Mitchell Potthoff
Reply to  Carl Duell

Let me know also, so I can properly verify when I was there.

Jay
Jay
5 years ago

Hi Gerald,

Will do! If I figure it out, I will write a follow up article.

Peace

Jay

Adam
Adam
5 years ago

Good article Jay. Laziness is the answer. Filipinos just go with the flow. Nothing bothers them. I see men and teenage boys sitting on the side of the road watching traffic all day to pass the time. They wouldnt have a clue what time it is or even what day it is! Lol I have given up trying to get my wife and daughter out the door for school at 730. EVERY day it ends up being 740-745 for absolutely no reason considering we get up soon after 5. Rather than stressing about it I will go sit outside out… Read more »

Jay
Jay
5 years ago
Reply to  Adam

Hi Adam,

I am glad you enjoyed the article! I think a public awareness campaign should be launched to combat this problem that will do the trick……right!

No point stressing over things we are powerless to change.

President Duterte does indeed have a lot on his plate!

Peace

Jay

Ronald McCarthy
Ronald McCarthy
5 years ago

While reading your post I was smiling to myself and thinking, “just another foreigner…”. But reading your last paragraph, all is explained; “I live in the USA.” You’re off the hook! Having immigrated to the US one might think that old customs would be left behind, but from my experiences very little in terms of custom is left behind. I must admit that when I was new many things seemed strange and unexplainable. Near the top of that list was Filipino Time! But then after living first in Abra for a time and then in Cebu, I much better understood.… Read more »

Jay
Jay
5 years ago

Hi Ronald,

I greatly appreciate your input and story…but I still don’t get Filipino Time.I agree that there is a lose understanding of the importance of time and maybe that is the one commodity Filipinos have in abundance. IDK. Thanks for your input.

Peace

Jay

Ronald McCarthy
Ronald McCarthy
5 years ago
Reply to  Jay

Hello Jay, There’s no great mystery to Filipino time. It’s neither good or bad. It’s just a casual sense of time. It is difficult for most foreigners to understand, but just like local languages and Filipino English, it’s just one of the features of Filipino life and culture. Whether or not you can learn to accept it for what it is, it will continue as it has for many generations. I can testify that life becomes much easier when you can just lay back and accept it. Perhaps it’s been easier for me since I’ve been retired (21 years now)… Read more »

Jay
Jay
5 years ago

Hi Ronald,

Thanks for your words of wisdom!

Peace

Jay

Tata Berto
Tata Berto
5 years ago

Like 🙂

Jay
Jay
5 years ago
Reply to  Tata Berto

Hi Tata,

Thanks!

Peace

Jay

Bob
Bob
5 years ago

Filipino time is like Mexican or Hawaiian time, and the Philippines is like the Mexico of Asia. It’s actually worse than you describe. There is no word for time in Tagalog, and “after lunch” is usually the closest estimate you will get, which can mean never.

Jay
Jay
5 years ago
Reply to  Bob

Hi Bob,

I wonder if there is a Bisayan word for time. There does seem to be a basic misunderstanding of time. The saying, “Time is money!” is not applicable in the Philippines.

Peace

Jay

MindanaoBob
5 years ago
Reply to  Jay

In both Tagalog and Bisaya the word that means “time” is Panahon. There is a word for time in each language.

Jay
Jay
5 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Hi Bob,

Thanks for the information!

Peace

Jay

Dale Smith
5 years ago

Philippine time = time plus one hour…….. Give or take 30 minutes 😕 😮 :-/

Jay
Jay
5 years ago
Reply to  Dale Smith

Hi Dale,

That is usually on track. I have seen Filipino families arrive 3 hours late to the pot luck. They get there just in time for the clean up and dividing the left overs phase of the evening.

Peace

Jay

Sheila Camus
5 years ago

It means you’re not on time

Jay
Jay
5 years ago
Reply to  Sheila Camus

Got it!

Thanks!

Peace

Jay

Brent Finger
5 years ago

It means when your early, your early and when your late, normally 1-2 hours, it means your ontime. We also call that Island time, because you only live once, so enjoy every minute and hour, because you dont get to get them back.

Jay
Jay
5 years ago
Reply to  Brent Finger

Hi Brent,

Thanks! Now everything makes sense.

Peace

Jay

RANDY WEIS
RANDY WEIS
5 years ago
Reply to  Brent Finger

Why can’t you enjoy every hour and minute and still be on time?

Jay
Jay
5 years ago
Reply to  RANDY WEIS

Hi Randy,

I guess if you are enjoying every hour and minute your are not checking your clock or watch all the time like us who are from the USA and other countries where we are concerned about being late. I am with you on being annoyed, but I am starting to get Filipino Time.

Peace

Jay

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