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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

That Peculiar Filipino Sense Of Time

This morning, I had a sparkling demonstration of how we view time in this country.

I'm not sure we should be wearing these buttons with pride.
(Courtesy of

Since the local parlor/barber shop (part of a successful local chain) opens at 10AM, I decided to go over at around 11AM, just to make sure that I would be served by the time I entered the store. Recent pictures of mine with my current hair length seemed to say I was from some wild jungle (not a fan of long hair on myself, at all) so I decided it was time for my appointment with the barber.

When I got there, I was surprised to see the metal door still covering the clear glass windows that showcases the shop in its entirety to passers-by. In fact, I thought the shop was closed because even if the glass door was slightly ajar, it looked rather dim, and gave off an atmosphere of being abandoned.

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

"Open na ba kayo?" I asked. (Are you open?)

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

"Mga anong oras?" (Can you give me an estimate of the time?)

The guy starts bugging the other unmindful employees about the answer, and they all seemed to be rather irritated that they were being harassed by their co-employee for an answer to my question, not even looking at him, with one even shrugging him off with "ano ba!" (what the heck). Unsuccessful with getting a response, he looks at me and says, "Sir, balik nalang kayo ng mga 1PM." (Just come back at 1PM.)

"Huh? Diba 10AM ang bukas ninyo?" (But don't you open at 10AM?)

"Oo, pero yung barber 1PM pa ang pasok." (But the barber comes in at 1PM.)  He pauses. "Yata." (Maybe.)

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

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

It is no coincidence that it has been derisively labeled as "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.

This week alone, I have had two other instances of this practice of treating time so casually.

I was off to meet a client at 6:30AM and she assured me of where to park that early in the morning, which she knew was open at 6AM. I got to the parking area around 6:10AM, and saw that there was still a bar across the entrance that prevented any cars from entering, with no one in the ticket booth. I circled the lot once more, in case there was another entrance, but unfortunately, it was the only one available so by the time I got back there, it was 6:15AM - and 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 original parking lot, and saw that the attendant was just then opening the bar from the entrance. Time check: 6:28AM.

That same day, I also had to run an errand in the mall (which opens at 10AM), and when I got to the store at 10:15AM, it was still closed. I waited for around 10 minutes and then I saw a store employee in a brisk walk, trying to tie her wet hair, and without so much as a to-do, unlocked the store and run in. I followed suit and while she was turning on the lights, I asked her what time they were supposed to open, and she turned to me in a half-grimace/half-scowl, and said "10 AM. 10:15 palang naman ah." (It's only 10:15.)

Not only was her watch late by the mall's count, but she also expected anyone else to be understanding of her tardiness, because, after all, she was "only" late for 15 minutes.

For pointing this out, and making people - especially the perpetrators of tardiness - aware that they are affecting the time of other people as well with their actions, I have been labeled mayabang (haughty), mataray (insulting) and generally seen to be some kind of "anti-Pinoy" for expecting people to be on time.

If that's what I have to put up with, so be it, but I cannot 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 by using another cultural gem we like to extol - pagbigyan mo na (just give way/be understanding) - because, guess what? That's how others get to cut in line, disobey the rules and generally make the concept of order seem like a big joke. 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 prize for imbibing Filipino Time on a national scale can be seen in an online joke I saw: If the destruction of the world is imminent and happening today, the Philippines will be the last country standing, thanks to Filipino Time.

Funny, huh? Yeah, not really.

1 comment:

  1. I just hate someone who does that. What a turn off!