The Filipino Sense of Time
By Edgar Lores
Many have observed that the Filipino has a different sense of time. There is a term for it — Filipino Time.
As far as I can see, there are four main dimensions to this unique sense of time:
- Short horizon
Alacrity is “cheerful readiness” and everybody knows Filipinos are ever ready and come quickly.
You invite people to a chibugan — a family gathering, a party, or a wedding reception — and they come quickly. And they not only bring themselves but also their kamaganak.
In contrast to alacrity, Filipinos are insensitive to duration. What do I mean? We love to dawdle. It seems to me that we have little sense of the precious passage of time. Unlike Westerners, we do not respect the value of our time as well as that of others. We do not realize that time is money.
Our casual attitude to time can be seen in the office, where we will chatter endlessly, only half paying attention to work. In Congress, we will fritter away time in pointless hearings and pass just two bills in a six-months’ session. After coming quickly to a party, we tend to stay for a long time. A long time, basta happy. Not that we necessarily overstay our welcome.
Convivial gatherings are a hallmark of our society, from the tagay lizards at the carinderia, to the family Noche Buena at Christmas, and to the lengthy food celebrations come fiesta time. And after staying long, guests cannot be sent off empty handed; no, usually there is a pabaon, which in its way is a time-saving tradition. It saves us time cooking when we get back home.
With unpunctuality, we have overextended the art of being fashionably late to a dismal habit. You set a party for 6:00 p.m. and everybody understands you mean 8:00 p.m. You set a date with a girl for 7:00 p.m. and she knows you won’t get mad at her for being 30 minutes late. Usually, the degree of tardiness is in direct proportion to her appeal, her edibility.
However, I have known other girls to be late just to test you. I mean me, to be exact. Of course, the girl was not testing my patience or the accuracy of my faux Swiss watch but the depth of my feelings for her.
Ahaha, the joke’s on her.
Making me wait is not really a good test of my patience or sincerity because I am an introvert (an INTJ). For me waiting is not waiting. I am never bored. I can happily sit still and occupy and entertain myself with a thousand thoughts — or none at all by simply observing the passing life. At any rate, this is how I used to justify my insecurity at some of my dates’ insecurity.
To overcome such tardiness, I remember I used to set the time for dates at non-5-minute intervals. I would tell my date, let’s meet at 4:37 p.m. or 6:12 p.m. This quirkiness indicated to my date that I was cranky about punctuality and would not countenance tardiness. No, no, no. And surprisingly, each date made it and came on time — and even before time — with an amused smile.
(Or was that a smirk? And, yes, I am a Virgo. Why do you ask?)
In my work experience, unpunctuality is connected to other faults such as procrastination, missing time targets, and cost overruns if not outright project failures.
We say, “Eh, bukas na yan.”
And, “Ma-extend naman yung deadline, ‘di ba?“
And, “Kahit lampas sa budget, maganda naman ang resulta, ‘di ba?”
And, “Minadali kasi, ‘di ba?“
“‘Di ba?” makes all of us divas — self-important people who are here to please themselves.
The last much-observed aspect of our sense of time is our foreshortened time horizon. Our collective temporal orientation is to the present. We do not care for the past and for the future. To paraphrase a recent post here, where the Chinese think in terms of decades and Westerners in years, we Pinoys think in terms of months.
One could say this fourth dimension of a short horizon is the opposite of the third, which is a stretching of the time horizon.
In economic theory, there are two concepts of “intertemporal choices” that, I think, are intertwined with our time orientation as it relates to decision-making.
Temporal discounting (or time preference) refers to “our tendency to want things now rather than later.” We prefer “immediate but modest rewards” instead of “future but sizeable rewards.” Remember the Marshmallow Test? We would be absolute failures. Like we wanted the Change marshmallow — and, boy oh boy, did we get it.
Temporal myopia is “the inability to consider the long-term outcomes of an action when making a choice.” This myopia is most evident in our voting choices at election time. With rare exceptions, the Executive, Cabinet, and Congress would make a complete rogues’ gallery.
In short, a short time horizon influences us to make short-sighted decisions. It is a huge factor in our judgmental disability.
This brings me to a question. In terms of time, what is the common trait among these Filipinos?
- Traditional voter
- Traditional politician
- NPA commander
- Abu Sayyaf bandit
Please give an answer, before reading further…
Give up? Sirit na?
If your answer was:
- Stupidity – you get 3 points.
- Sinfulness – you get 5 points.
- Lawlessness – you get 7 points.
- Cupidity – you get 9 points.
- None of the above – you get the full 10 points.
Mind you, if I had added OFW to the list, the right answer — cupidity (or greed) — might have been apparent immediately.
Yes, we want — no, we demand — to get things quick with the least amount of effort.
We love quickies. We want to get rich quick. Or be successful quick. Or implement changes quick. Or grab an ersatz high quick.
We want everything — and I mean EVERYTHING — now. And I mean NOW.
This impulsiveness, this lack of emotional control and demand for instant gratification, my friends, explains the Filipino.
It goes a long way to account for why we steal public funds, vote crooked patrons into office, behead foreigners, sell and use drugs, invite authoritarian rule, and kill addicts. And… and breed like rabbits.
Non carpe diem!