Last week, when I wrote in my continuing series about SIR (Smooth Interpersonal Relationships), by foundation of Filipino Culture, I said that I had only one more aspect to cover, and asked if anyboyd could guess what it was. I was surprised that nobody guessed (Chris tried, but was not correct), because this is the area of Filipino Culture that seems to annoy Westerners the most of all. The final installment on the SIR system that is used in the Philippines is the Time-Event Concept. Basically, we are going to talk about Filipino Time today! Again! Yes, we have discussed this many times, but I will cover it again today, because it is part of the SIR cultural system that exists in the Philippines.
The study materials that I have here, which were given to me by my Bisaya teacher, Bebe Metillo, say this. Filipinos are more interested in what is happening (the event itself), than in when the event is happening. In a folk society valuing people more than time, you must show up some time when the event is happening, not necessarily at the starting time of the event.
Well, this is certainly a different way to look at it, don’t you think? You must show up – at some time – not necessarily when the event starts! That kind of explains why everybody shows up late by one amount of time or another. Where I come from, in the United States, to be polite, we usually show up 15 minutes or so early for a meeting or some such event! Here, if you show up early, it is very rude, because you might be imposing on the host, who is probably not ready yet. Even showing up “on time” at the hour when the event is scheduled is not really proper under this “time-event concept.”
I would say that in my 9 years of living in the Philippines, the practice of this time-event concept is the most aggreviating part of living here. It is also complicated by the fact that not all Filipinos follow this custom, some do things actually on time! So, if you are invited to something, the first thing you have to do is to actually figure out if the person who is hosting is expecting you at the time you were invited, or if you should be 30 minutes or even an hour late to be “on time.” It can really be complicated! Sometimes, when we are invited to something, Feyma and I will actually come right out and ask if we should go by “American time” or “Filipino time.” I think that this is a good practice to follow, so that you can actually show up at a time that you are expected to be there.
So, what do you think about the practice of Filipino Time, or the Time-Event Concept? For me it is annoying, even after living here for a very long time. When I talk to other expats, this is also the number one annoyance that I hear about. But, for Filipinos it is not rude or bad-mannered at all, it is just the way things are, and how they are done. What do you think?
Well, this wraps up my series of articles about SIR . I hope that you got some useful information from the series, I know that when I was given this material by Bebe, it opened my eyes to a lot of things in the Culture and helped me understand things that had always confused me. I hope that it helped some of you too. That is, after all, why I wrote the articles!