That peculiar ‘Filipino Time’

Joey Ramirez
I have often wondered when it is we will ever take time, especially the time of others, seriously

JOEY RAMIREZRecently, I had a sparkling example of how we view time in this country.

Since the local parlor/barber shop (part of a successful local chain) opens at 10 am, I decided to go over at around 11 am, just to make sure I would be served by the time I got there.

When I arrived, I was surprised to see the metal shutters covering the clear glass windows still down. I thought the shop was closed because even if the glass door was slightly ajar, it looked rather dim. For a while I thought the shop was abandoned.

I entered and found no one manning the reception area. There were around 4 employees, one of them just removing curlers from her hair. Another was walking towards the back room, and still another  was cutting her toe nails. The only one who looked up from what he was doing to talk to me was a guy who gave me the once-over, and (correctly) assumed I would be looking for a barber and not a hair stylist.

“Open na ba kayo?” I asked. (Are you already open?)

“Yes, sir. Pero mamaya pa po papasok yung barber.” (But the barber will be coming in much later.)

“Mga anong oras?” (At about what time?)

The guy started bugging the other unmindful employees, who were irked by his pestering. One dismissed him with “Ano ba (What the heck)!” Unable to get a response, he looked at me and said, “Sir, balik na lang kayo ng mga 1 pm.” (Just come back at 1 pm.)

“Huh? Di ba 10 am ang bukas ninyo?” (But don’t you open at 10 am?)

Oo, pero yung barber 1 pm pa ang pasok.” (But the barber comes in at 1 pm.) He paused then added, “Yata.” (Maybe.)

I gave up and consigned myself to looking a bit unkempt until the coming weekend, when I could go back to my previous barber. (A bit more expensive, but the service is always excellent. And he is on time.)

Filipino time

Why is it that we seem to have an extremely lax concept of time?

It is no coincidence it has been derisively labeled “Filipino time” – an admission that we like to “take things easy” (supposedly a charm of our country), and that deadlines and appointments are meant to be delayed, be late for, and even broken.

Just recently, I had two other instances that reflected how we treat time so casually.

I was off to meet a client at 6:30 am and she assured me parking would not be a problem because one parking area she knew was open at 6 am. I got to there around 6:10 am, and saw a bar across the entrance that prevented cars from entering. No one was in the ticket booth.

I circled the lot once more, looking for another entrance, but unfortunately, it was the only one available. By the time I got back to the original spot, it was 6:15 am – and the car park was still closed.

I had to park at the next available space, over a kilometer away. As I was walking to our meeting place, I had to pass by the first parking lot, and saw that the attendant was just then opening the bar from the entrance. Time check: 6:28 am.

That same day, I also had to run an errand in the mall (which opens at 10 am), and when I got to the store at 10:15 am, it was still closed. I waited for about 10 minutes and then saw a store employee walking briskly, trying to tie her wet hair, and quickly unlocking the store and running in.

I followed suit and while she was turning on the lights, I asked her what time they were supposed to open. She turned to me in a half-grimace, half-scowl, and replied, “10 am. 10:15 pa lang naman ah.” (It’s only 10:15.)

Not only was her watch late by the mall’s time, she also expected everyone else to be tolerant of her tardiness, because, after all, she was late for “only” 15 minutes.


For pointing this out, and making people – especially the perpetrators of tardiness – aware that they are adversely affecting the time of other people, I have been labeled mayabang (haughty), mataray (arrogant), and even “anti-Pinoy.”

If that’s what I have to put up with, so be it, but I can’t tolerate it – even at the risk of being labeled unpatriotic for having very un-Filipino expectations. I especially am allergic to anyone who tries to coax me with, “Pagbigyan mo na (Just give way/Be understanding).”

Why? Because it’s giving way too that allows others to cut the line, disobey the rules and generally make a big joke out of the concept of order. Even the act of what we colloquially call “under the table” (bribing) is a form of bigayan – give me this and I’ll give you that.

I have often wondered when it is we will ever take time, especially the time of others, seriously. Our only consolation for following Filipino Time on a national scale is perhaps this joke I saw online: If the destruction of the world is imminent and happening today, the Philippines will be the last country standing, thanks to Filipino Time. –

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