Filipino Time and Time Management in the Philippines

Filipino Time is an expression that refers to the tendency that many Filipinos have to show up rather late (if they show up at all) when they have an appointment.

Jose Rizal, the Philippines’ national Hero seems to indicate that the Spaniards were the ones who kind of shaped the Filipino concept of time, and showing up on time, because they themselves had a manyana mindset, and all the more so if they were rich and sophisticated. Being late was akin to being important.

In Noli me Tangere Rizal talks about the Spaniards displaying this kind of behaviour:

“Linares had not yet arrived, for being an important person, he must come much later than the others. There are people who are flattered that for each hour of delay because they have not yet arrived, they become more significant”

It seems, however, that pre-colonial Filipinos already had an inclination toward being kind of indolent and, according to some historians, the Spaniards actually noticed what Setsuho Ikeata refers to as “the indolence of the Filipinos” and Ikeata goes on to say that said “indolence” was viewed by the colonizers “as the cause of the stagnancy and the backwardness of the society” and evidently they took advantage of it.

The Americans got so annoyed at the indolence of the Filipino upper-class, that they were forced to deal with, that they came up with the expression Filipino Time.

To be fair I must say that, compared to other ethnic groups that live in my country, and that I have had the chance to interact with (such as the Nigerians for example), Filipino time is in my opinion, still tolerable.

It has been said that when a Filipino says “yes” the actual meaning is “maybe” and, as husband of a Filipina, I can confirm that this is definitely the case and that applies to appointments as well. Well, at least “yes” means something for Filipinos, when dealing with other ethnic groups you might discover that “yes” counts for absolutely nothing (my perspective based on my personal experience).

On top of Filipino time there are other areas where Filipinos don’t quite show up as masters of time management.

Filipinos tend to waste a lot of free time in idle activities such as posting selfies on social media, kwentuan, tsismis and this is something that, evidently gets in the way of productivity, therefore things that are supposed to be meaningful end up at the bottom of their schedule (if they have any) while things that should be at the top end up at the bottom.

This means that if you are a productivity junkie and your wife is Filipina, you’d better fasten your seat belt and brace for massive culture shock.

By things that should be at the top I mean stuff like life purpose, reading and anything else that can raise one’s level of consciousness.

Yes, Filipinos do a lot of stuff that is not exactly what a Westerners would define as relevant to a higher mission in life and they often don’t have any, or they haven’t even started thinking about having one.

Result of lack of strategic planning, having kids without knowing how to provide for them and then finding themselves stuck in a hectic life where taking a fresh stock of time management gets very difficult is also something that accounts for the fact that Filipinos often live their lives like hamsters in a wheel chasing their tails in circles and not going anywhere.

And if you are the typical Western time-management junkie and are considering marrying a Filipina, be prepared to make room for some latitude and flexibility: you will need a lot of it.

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