Filipino Time – Unplugged!
I am thoroughly convinced that there are a complete set of Murphy’s Laws… Filipino version, that are in play. 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 work well and in conjunction 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 all outcomes, much of which can be 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 confirm 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.
In my real-time example below, I use transportation as the primary contributing factor which indicates that “Filipino Timing” can never be calculated nor can it be predicted. And because the majority of the population in the Philippines is heavily 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 take 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. In addition to transportation, there are a myriad of other reasons that can affect whether anyone ever shows up anywhere on time, and I have included a few additional factors that drive how and why this particular scenario plays out as it does.
3. Power outages
Imagine yourself and 3 friends all agree to meet for some conversation over a few evening cocktails and you all agreed 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 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. After a few minutes, 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 (gossip)with each other (yes, she missed that Jeepney!) until they eventually part ways. 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 a heavy downpour and frequent lightning. 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 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, four 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 due to some minor flooding 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 (that was 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. Your wife 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!” (Filipino logic.) This is where your most emphatic Bart Simpson impression will most likely be used, as you head out the door.
The relatively short trip to your chosen meeting place takes you 25 minutes and upon arriving you think to yourself, not bad, it’s only 4:20pm and I’m the first one here. You are feeling good because you consider yourself “on time” (regardless of how late you may be, in the Philippines, 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 who you were supposed to meet up with and now it’s 5:10pm. He inquires of youre whereabouts 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 now confused friend curiously responds “The Emerald?” And you say, “That’s right, The Emerald!” to which your friend then replies “but my wife said John’s wife learned from your wife that you wanted to meet at the Imelda! By the way, is John and Larry with you?”
Timing and Communications…. It’s More Fun in the Philippines!
*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.