The “Filipino Time” Syndrome

by Dr. Philip S. Chua.

Aug 6, 2010

The “Filipino Time” Syndrome Whenever I hear the notorious excuse or description “Filipino Time,” I feel a grave insult is hurled at my people, even if the generalization is usually uttered by fellow Filipinos themselves. The defensive rationalization is usually accompanied by a snicker or laughter, a demeanor that trivializes the seriousness of the behavioral impropriety and rudeness.

To accept the insinuation that tardiness is a natural birth trait of the Filipino is to malign our people and irresponsibly admit that we are not cultured enough, and that we are socially uncouth, ill-mannered and uncivilized. This is no laughing matter and I do not find this funny. And I vehemently object to this unfair characterization. I have been in the United States since 1963, and over the past 4 decades, I have observed the transformation of Juan(a) de la Cruz, albeit sometimes with stubborn reluctance, to an individual more conscious of time, of the value of punctuality, and of the proper respect for other people’s schedule. 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. With this particular “syndrome” genetics cannot deservedly take the blame. The culpability rests on the “infected ones” and not on the entire Filipino people. While I can sense, and am proud of, the improvement in the matter of punctuality among many of our kababayan abroad and here in the Philippines, especially among the younger generation, tardiness and the seeming lack of perception of time among a significant number of us is still rampant and bothersome. And what makes it more tragic is the apparent acceptance by many of our fellow Filipinos that being tardy is “normal, acceptable, excusable, or should be tolerated,” because, after all, “it is the Filipino Time.” This vexing acquiescence is unfair and a disservice to our people and to our nation as a whole.

I refuse to surrender, even for a moment, to the notion that we, as a people, are culturally, socially and ethically inferior to the Americans or to any other peoples of the world. Punctuality is not an exclusive trait of the people of the United States or of the Europeans. While I abhor the lack of punctuality among anyone and admit with embarrassment and dismay that many of us Filipinos (and other nationalities, of course) are guilty of this offensive bad habit, I still believe that, with proper training and discipline, starting from the nursery school, the Filipinos will be capable of developing the trait of punctuality, among others, in them. Many of us usually come up with a dozen excuses for our misbehavior or misadventures.

For being late for our appointment, meeting or party, we blame the Spaniards, our society as a whole, the alarm clock, the traffic, the car battery, the baby sitter, or even the innocent baby itself. The usual rationale we hear from many is “they won’t start on time anyway; we’ll just waste our time waiting there.” And the vicious cycle goes on. Making excuses or shifting the blame does not accomplish anything and only makes matters worse. Perhaps, its time to look at the mirror to view the real culprit, make the accurate critical diagnosis, and self-prescribe the appropriate treatment — promptly!
Let us set a good example for our children by showing them how we value and manage time, how time lost can never be recovered, and how we respect other people’s agenda . It’s about time we lost that bad reputation. The “Filipino Time” syndrome is a disease only of those inconsiderate compatriots of ours who simply don’t give a damn, and not of the entire Filipino people. So, when someone is late for an appointment, I beg you to, please, not to mention the lame excuse “Filipino” Time when I am around, otherwise, I won’t be responsible for my inexplicable ferocious reaction, in defense of my fellow Filipinos who are considerate, responsible, and respectful of other people’s schedule.

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