Real Filipino Time Scenario

Filipino Time – Unplugged!

I am thoroughly convinced that just like a set of the once ever popular, now outdated Encyclopedia Britannica, there is also a complete unabridged set of Murphy’s Laws (in Filipino version) that are still effective today as always. Just as sure as the world turns, Murphy could just as well been of Irish-Filipino descent, because the perceived perversity of the universe will just as easily catch up with you here in the Philippines as it will anywhere. In the Philippines, “timing” is everything and is also nothing. It is a phenomenon all its own. It seems to co-exist, working in unison with Mr. Murphy’s “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” theory. Timeliness in the Philippines is mainly dependent on a system of timekeeping that is historically unique to the Philippines. And yes, the Philippines is measured by the same 24 hour-long day as anywhere else. There are no shortages of clocks or cellphones, and many people sport watches, but it is the phenomenon of “Filipino Time” that distorts time which is the blame for everything that is good and bad about timeliness. What really needs to be understood about Filipino Time is that there are many underlying factors that dictate almost every (all) outcome of arriving late, but there is one dominant factor that is better explained as being related to timing factors’. In another “Filipino Time” article,  The Origin of Filipino Time I describe the origin of “Filipino Indios Time” and its historical significance. I further confirmed that Filipino Time is defined in the Urban Dictionary as “The official timing of the Philippines” and in summary simply means things get done whenever they get done.

Contributing Causes

In the real-time example below, I use transportation as the primary contributing factor indicationg that “Filipino Timing” can never be calculated, let alone be be predicted. And because the majority of the population in the Philippines has always been reliant on public transportation, any single factor alone is only as critical as all the passengers, driver, traffic, and external factors allow it to be. When you embark on a Jeepney for example, you essentially depend on the ‘timeliness of an entire nation’, and it alone can be one of the single most contributing factors to the variables of punctuality. As an aside to transportation, there are a multitude of additional reasons that can affect whether anyone ever shows up anywhere on time, and I have listed a few of those factors that drive how and why this particular scenario plays out as it does.

1. Transportation
2. Weather
3. Power outages
4. Traffic
5. Communications

Everyone is Waiting For a Jeepney!
Everyone is Waiting For a Jeepney!

The Scenario”

Imagine yourself and 3 friends planning to meet up for some good conversation over a few evening cocktails.  You all agree to meet at a pre-determined place at the scheduled time of 4:00 pm. With just the five variables listed above, it can equate to hundreds of possible scenarios as to why this planned get together simply will not happen. Your asawa (spouse) has gone to the market and knows to be home in time (a unique variable all its own) so you can promptly leave for your 4pm meeting. You must wait until she returns because there is nobody else available to stay at the house to keep an eye on things.

She leaves the market on time to head home, but her tricycle driver has trouble with his motor. She unloads herself and quickly jumps into another tricycle and is then taken to her Jeepney pick-up spot. There, she waits through 4 Jeepneys until one comes along that can accommodate her with space for her and two large packages. But, all of a sudden, cousin Jamille (who she has not seen in months) just shows up out of no where, and for nearly ten minutes they swap chizmiz with each other (yes, she missed that Jeepney!). They say their good-byes (paalam) and it’s another 5 minutes before another Jeepney with a vacancy arrives. Now on board, the Jeepney heads out and just then a large thunderstorm breaks loose with frequent lightning and a heavy downpour. With nervous and frightened passengers, the driver pulls alongside the road for 10 minutes until Mother Nature lets up. While sitting idly by waiting for the storm to pass, the driver realizes that when the rain stops, it would be good time to re-fuel the Jeepney. So he pulls into a station that has a rather long queue of patrons. After sitting in line that hasn’t moved for over 5 minutes, it becomes known that the pumps are not working due to a power outage likely caused by a lightning strike. So off the beaten path he goes thru traffic, three blocks over to another station where it takes another 10 minutes to complete the re-fuel and get back on the road.


By this time, traffic after the storm has become congested and it’s slow going heading towards the Barrio. All’s going well until the Jeepney loaded with passengers comes upon a large flatbed truck carrying coco lumber (overloaded to begin with) that has overturned, dumping its cargo all over the road. After nearly a 20 minute clean-up, traffic once again begins to move. The asawa finally reaches her drop and now spends several more minutes hailing a final tricycle ride for the trip to the house. She arrives home precisely at 3:55pm. When you give her that look and ask “Where have you been? You know I have a meeting!” she responds with “But your meeting is not until 4:00 and it’s not even 4:00 yet!”  This is where your most emphatic Bart Simpson impression will most likely be used, as you head out the door (you experienced husbands know this fire drill precisely, don’t you?).

Helmuts Bar, Alona Beach, Bohol
Helmuts Bar, Alona Beach, Bohol

The trip to your chosen meeting place takes you 25 minutes and upon arriving you think to yourself, not bad, it’s only 4:20 and I’m the first one here. You are feeling good because you consider yourself “on time” (regardless of how late you may be, if you arrive first, you are “on time”). You order a beer and relax while waiting on your friends. You order another beer….and another….then your phone rings. It’s one of your buddies whom you were supposed to meet up with and now it’s 5:10pm. He asks where you are at and you state “I’m here at the Emerald Bar waiting on you. Heck, I’ve been here over 40 minutes and have had three beers already.” Your confused friend curiously responds “The Emerald?” to which you reply “That’s right, The Emerald!”  Then your friend says “but my asawa said John’s asawa learned from your asawa that you wanted to meet at The Imelda!  By the way, is John and Larry with you?”

Timing… It’s More Fun in the Philippines!  Communications… a story for another time!

*footnote: As a blood pressure reduction and control method, as related to Filipino Timing, it is highly recommended never to wear a watch in the Philippines. I don’t.

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5 thoughts on “Real Filipino Time Scenario

  1. Unfortunately, without air travel in your plans, it will require overland travel to Tacloban, then continue either overland to Ormoc and then ferry to Cebu, or from Tacloban by ferry to Surigao City, then also by boat and eventually to Dumaguete. Plan on a couple of days travel…at least.

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  3. Nice article Randy. You forgot the asawas preparation time. You know that three hour routine she goes through before she can leave the house.

  4. Definitely yes. That is one of those many variables I spoke of. I only used 5 in the example scenario! ha ha

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