Should we settle for Filipino time?


Tina MateoWritten by:

“Filipino Time” refers to the Filipinos’ own unique brand of time, which is known to be minutes or hours behind the standard or agreed time. This tardiness and the seeming lack of perception of time among a significant number of us has given us a notorious reputation of not observing punctuality.   The sad part about this is that many of our people accept that being late is “normal, acceptable, excusable, or should be tolerated, because after all, it is the “Filipino Time.”  This is definitely a disservice to our nation as a whole and a bad habit that needs to be dropped.

I would like to believe that tardiness is not a natural birth trait of the Filipino.  Punctuality is no exclusive trait of the Americans or the Europeans or first world nations.   While I am bothered with the lack of punctuality among anyone and admit with embarrassment and dismay that many of us Filipinos are guilty of this offensive bad habit, I strongly believe that, with proper training and discipline, starting from the home and in nursery school, the Filipinos will be capable of developing the trait of punctuality.

Being late is unacceptable no matter from what point.  Whether you are attending a party, a conference call, coming for a job interview, or a simple coffee meeting, when you’re late, you’re late.  While it sounds harsh, it’s the truth and it is something that should be called out more often. Your punctuality says a lot about you, especially if you are one who is always late.

According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and in Business, a habit is defined as “the choices that all of us deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about but continue doing, often everyday.”  Forming habits involves having strong will power so to get into the habit of being punctual, one’s just got to get rid of the excuses. Just decide to do it!

I personally do not like being late for appointments or meetings, whether they are for socials or for business nor would I want to be late for a show, a performance, or even a party.   I would always naturally prefer to be relaxed than get stressed with the thought that there are people waiting for me.

On this issue, I get varied reactions.  I even get teased for being too uptight and strict sometimes.  It seems like many people consider a meeting time or a deadline merely an advisory or a suggestion.  

We set meeting times and deadlines for a reason and not just because we want to satisfy a whim.  It allows for a coordination of efforts, minimizes time and wasted effort. It also helps set expectations.  It allows efficiency and productivity

When one is perennially late, this is what it is —–

  • Disrespectful: Being on time is about respect. It signals that you value and appreciate the other person.
  • Inconsiderate:  Being late demonstrates an overall lack of consideration for the lives of others. You just don’t care.
  • Big-Timing: Intentionally being late is about power. It’s showing the other person, or people that you’re a “big deal” and have the upper-hand in the relationship.
  • Incredible: If you can’t be counted on to be on time, how could you possibly have credibility around far tougher tasks?
  • Disorganized: If you can’t keep your calendar, what other parts of your life are hovering on the edge of complete disaster? Being late signals that you’re barely hanging on
  • Overly-Busy: Everyone likes to equate busyness with importance but successful people know that is not true.  Having a perpetually hectic schedule just signals that you can’t prioritize or say “no,”
  • Flaky: Some people just “flake out,” which seems to mean that they arbitrarily decided not to do the thing they committed to at the very last minute.

There is no question that environment plays a fundamental role, second to training at home and in school, in the development of the behavior, trait, character, attitude, and thinking of the individual.  The young impressionistic mind can surely be taught about punctuality, the value of time, and the respect for other people’s schedule.

Let us, as parents and teachers, set a good example for our children by showing them how much we value and manage our time, how time lost cannot be recovered, and how we respect other people’s plans.  Let us stop making excuses for our being tardy blaming everything else without owning up to our own faults. Stop saying, “It won’t start on time anyway.” or “We’ll just waste our time waiting there.” Making excuses or shifting the blame will not take us anywhere and only makes matters worse.

A quote by American author, Eric Jerome Dickey, may be a good motto to start with, “Early is on time.  On time is late. Late is unacceptable.”


Brent Shore – contributor, Forbes Magazine

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