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Opinion: Stop Normalizing “Filipino Time”, It Ain’t Cute

Opinion ⬝ Real Jhon Castillon

Just so you know, you can actually start your event or meeting on the set time. You just have to be firm about *it*. And walk the talk, of course. 

Over the years, one of the most annoying and definitely problematic norms of the Filipino culture is our inability to start our events or meetings — regardless of how important or not — at the given time. Though a five or ten minutes late might somehow still be acceptable, well, at least in the Philippines — and not in countries like Japan and South Korea. However, it’s a different story when half an hour has passed and you can’t help but ask the organizer or the person in-charge on what time they will be calling the shots.

At the back of your mind, you could have spent that 30 minutes, or worse, an hour delay catching up on something that you deem urgent — instead of just sitting, waiting for the event to unfold. The waiting game may be good for some people who do not have anything else to do after the event; but for someone who’s busy and always on the go, it’s more than an inconvenience. 

But can we, as Filipinos, actually start our event on or ahead of time? Is it really possible to go past and break the “Filipino Time” attitude? The answer is simple: YES.

As someone who organizes events like workshops, one of the things that I consider as a feat is starting the event way ahead of time. Quite the bare minimum for some, yes, but as a Filipino, this one deserves a mini celebration. It’s one of the things that you should be proud of as an organizer (again, it’s just the bare minimum.) Because truth be told, it’s quite rare for an event in the Philippines to actually start earlier than expected, which is sad. 

The only instance that the concept of “on time” may be true or attainable is in movie theaters. Regardless if there’s a viewer or not, the cinema owners will play the film on the scheduled time — which is how it should be even in events, meetings, and other special occasions.

Now that we’re in this so-called “new normal”, maybe it’s about time we not normalize “Filipino Time” anymore. Not only is it irritating, which may be an understatement, but rather a sign of disrespect in more ways than one. 

Set it right and simply walk the talk

Way back 2019 when I was still working in my previous company, we were given a daunting task of organizing a series of workshops. I was elated because it’s been a while since we were tasked to organize such but I can’t help but worry about two things: the number of participants that we can invite and later on, if we can start and finish on or ahead of time. 

As the days drew closer to the workshop itself, my worry with the number of participants somehow ceased. Looking at the online registration form, the number of expected participants were not that bad. It was more than what we expected actually. These numbers don’t look bad in photos if ever, we said. But there’s one important problem though; will these people come earlier? Or are they just similar to the 90% of the population who still cling to the idea of “Filipino Time” therefore showing up to the workshop an hour or two late?

We have to do something, we firmly said. We have to condition them to be at the event earlier. So we did a text brigade.

“Registration starts as early as 9 AM. The workshop will start ON TIME regardless of how many participants. Please don’t be late. See you!” 

Aside from other important stuff in the workshop, we included the above mentioned as one of the essential reminders in our text brigade. To our surprise, it worked.

Participants really came as early as 9 AM to register. And true to our words, we did start the workshop at exactly 10 AM. 

As one of the organizers and as the host of the workshop, it felt great that 10 minutes before the workshop proper, I was already at the front stage echoing the same reminders we sent via text, emphasizing the do’s and don'ts and more importantly, introducing the workshop speaker.

As an organizer, you must consider not just your time but the time of everyone involved as well. We must put the “better late than never” mindset to rest in the guise of your incompetence to strictly follow a simple rule. In my opinion, this type of mindset is what propagated this toxic behavior in the first place.

On the other hand, it’s true that you really have to set some certain guidelines that’s effective for both parties to get desirable results. In our case, constant reminders (text message) and practicing what we preach (we were consistently on time) did some wonders. They knew that we mean business especially with our reminders so they just deliberately followed.

Whether someone has nothing to do after the event or not, it’s still not an excuse for you to eat up most of their time. Let alone waste it. Every second counts, remember?

Some of these people you invited for a meeting or an event did not just put some important occasions on hold just for you to waste their time. Imagine weeks or months of preparation and the event still started late? Then there must be something wrong with the planning or preparation.

What’s worse is we do not apologize most of the time over the delay we just caused. We started the event as if you did not just waste 30 minutes of everyone’s time without any note (like what Japanese do) or even a simple public apology.

“Pusta-anay ta. Di ba dili na mag start on time. Filipino time baya.”

If this kind of mindset still prevails then the Filipino time will still be a normal thing in the years to come – which should never be at the first place. 

“Time is gold.” A quote that is taught to us as early as elementary and yet we hardly recognize the importance of such at all.

Time is gold. Only when it’s convenient.

Time is gold. But definitely not Filipino time.

© The Middle Mag PH