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”.