The Origin of Filipino Time

Filipino Time
Filipino Time

FILIPINO TIME – In The Beginning

If you scour all the blogs about the Philippines, you will find many a reference made to “Filipino Time”. There is never a better time to delve into this tradition for a better understanding of why being late for everything is considered the norm in the Philippines (pun intended). Being married so-to-speak to the Archipelago (a Filipina) for over 30 years, I am no stranger to the Filipino’s standards of tardiness. There are no standards really.

Spaniard Colonists
Spaniard Colonists

While researching these later-than-late tendencies, I have learned about what could possibly be the origin and cause of Filipino Time. The roots of “Filipino Time” transcend hundreds of years and the term was coined to mean Filipino Indios Time. Back during the Spanish colonization period, whenever there were social events and parties, there was a need to distinguish between the SENIOR’s and SENORITA’s time and the Filipino Indios (or Second Citizen) time. Filipinos were required to come at a later time during events hosted by the Spaniards, where the Spanish conquistadores and mestizos, would all have been properly hosted and seated. The late arrival would allow for the Filipino guests to self-effacingly say they had already eaten. They would then assimilate on the sides of the party where they would socialize quietly and make their own connections for business and politics. They would provide applause and dance as directed by party organizers. They were also often used as after dinner entertainers to their colonizers. As this became carried through time, it became tradition and culture …just remember 300 years of Spanish colonization!

Juan Time - It's Official!
Juan Time

Whom ever coined the term “Filipino Time” would today probably realize a stark contrast from its original use. While it originally described the Filipino’s inclination for arriving at or starting an event 15 to 30 minutes later than scheduled, it has become a notorious habit that, unknown to many and in simple terms, contributes significantly to this country’s overall lost productivity. In an attempt to change this mindset and imbue awareness of the benefits of timeliness, the Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST), through the Science and Technology Information Institute, on September 30th of 2011, launched a campaign titled “Juan Time,” which is designed to promote time-consciousness among Filipinos. Juan Time is intended to promote the nationwide use of the Philippine Standard Time (hence “Juan Time”, a word play on “One Time” and “Juan” being the common name for Filipinos) and sync timepieces with the PST. According to DOST Secretary Mario Montejo, “Philippine Standard Time (PST), the country’s official time, sets only one common time in the archipelago’s more than 7,100 islands” and that “Juan Time reminds Filipinos that keeping to the PST avoids the difficulties of having confusing, unsynchronized time.”

While I think it is a noteworthy attempt by officials in the country to tackle tardiness that is deemed to negatively impact the country’s economy, changing 300 + years of an evolutionary trait could be as monumental as the timely scheduling of pick-up times for Jeepneys. For me, the DOST mantra – With PST, “Filipino time” is now “on time” is almost as laughable as betting on a blind rooster at a cock-fight.

An excerpt from the Urban Dictionary:

1. Filipino Time –  
  Filipino Time, which means things get done whenever they get done. Official Timing of The Philippines.


Although I fully understand the intent of the DOST, I ask the question all the time – would life be any different in my view if Filipinos all just began to show up on time? Maybe for some, it would. Personally for me and others who may be at that point in life where retirement and slowing down is way more important than catching a Jeepney on time, the choice of showing up on time or being fashionably late is just an added convenience of one’s chosen lifestyle. More importantly, and as far as I’m concerned, the later I am the colder the San Miguel could potentially be! But, one also does run the risk of missing out on the “polutan.” For me, I simply look at exercising the option of being late as an earned “Life Executive Privilege”.

11 thoughts on “The Origin of Filipino Time

  1. ” For me, the DOST mantra – With PST, “Filipino time” is now “on time” is almost as laughable as betting on a blind rooster at a cock fight.” Ha ha ha Good one Sir Randy

  2. You mentioned you researched the origins of Filipino Time. May I know your sources? I have a clear respected source that will disprove your findings, unless of course your source is more reliable and valid.

  3. The origins of Filipino time exist and are published in numerous sources, many of which can be found on the internet. My deduction of information is made purely from the historical perspective, not social or cultural. If you scour the internet like I did, you should arrive at a very similar conclusion that Filipino tardiness is both influenced by and documented to have begun during the period of Spanish rule. You can always read Jose Rizal’s first novel, “Noli Me Tangere”, or even his second novel “El Filibusterismo”, where Rizal also narrates how the Spaniards loved to be the laggards in gatherings. But of course if you have what you think is a “more reliable source” that will “disprove” the historical perspective of this topic, by all means, please share if you think it is accurate.

  4. Footnotes to those sources please.
    Also if you read Fili it is different from how you describe its origins.

  5. I just provided you with information as to where I got my information. I also provided you two novels written by a famous author. I’m not obliged to provide you with anything, let alone footnotes. Do your own research if you are not happy with my deduction (which I correctly described it as a personal conclusion should your re-read the article). If you believe the origin of Filipino Time is different, then by all means, please enlighten the world with something of substance and not with the likes of gibberish by simply writing “fili”.

  6. It’s not just people arriving late or events starting late – it’s also transportation. People rely on posted schedules but they’re not dependable. So frustrating! Flights, Buses, they’d all leave whenever they felt like leaving, if at all.
    I detailed experiences from my first time visiting the Philippines here:

  7. Yes, the transportation system is probably the biggest contributor to “Filipino Time.” Just like in the scenario I published, you just never know! Yesterday on the way to town, we picked up a neighbor who was walking towards the highway to catch a jeepney. She had been waiting for about 45 minutes for one to depart the barangay, then she began walking. It would have taken her another 4o minutes to walk to the highway pick-up spot and then add in some more time waiting on a jeepney at that point. Time is definitely NOT of the essence here.

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