Is Philippine Standard Time truly the solution to Filipino Time?

img_0554Is it supposed to be surprising that apart from a few reports on both GMA, ABS-CBN, and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, there isn’t much discussion going around about the newly signed Republic Act (RA) 10535?

RA 10535 is described as, “an act to set the Philippine Standard Time (PST) in all official sources throughout the country, to provide funds for the installation, operation and maintenance of synchronized time devices to be displayed in key public places and to declare the first week of every year as national time consciousness week.”

Basically, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) is the designated timekeeper for PST, and all national and local government offices are now required to display the PST, and to synchronize to it.

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What has been explicitly mentioned by at least two of the reports on the signing of RA 10535, is that that piece of legislation is being geared as a solution towards that most infamous local idiosyncrasy: Filipino Time.

Filipino Time can be described simply with four words: no concept of time. Despite Filipinos generally knowing how to agree on appointments and commitments at specific times, many of them have a habit of being tardy more than what is socially deemed acceptable.

The whole thinking behind RA 10535, it seems, is that timepieces that aren’t synchronized with an official time is a major reason why Filipinos are habitually late. Well, let’s mention the obvious from the get-go: the clocks are not the real problem.

The ingrained Filipino attitude towards time is.

As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, there are two ways one can look at time: either as a precious resource or as a general guideline. So which way does the Filipino look? Maybe the following guide questions can help:

Have Filipinos been good at taking care of resources?
Are Filipinos fond of following simple guidelines?
Are Filipinos known for being considerate of others?
Are Filipinos strict when it comes to schedules or deadlines?
Are Filipinos naturally wasteful?

Time is a precious resource; once it is gone you can’t bring it back. In modern societies, time literally is money, so if you’re wasting time, you’re wasting money. Why can’t Filipinos grasp the idea of respecting what is precious to others?

Filipinos are not known to follow simple guidelines. Fellow GRP writer Ilda had made this point very well in one of her old articles:

There is very little evidence that Filipinos are capable of living by the “rule of law”. The society is quite extraordinary in the sense that simple rules and regulations whether on the road or in the work place are for the most part ignored. This is because each individual has this baseless sense of being more important than everybody else. It is why you see people cutting you off on highway lanes on the road or pushing their way in lines ahead of the rest in a queue. In other words, Filipinos in general tend to put their own interest first before other people.

Let them wait. It’s good for the soul, so goes a line I used to hear when I was younger.

A society where each individual thinks he/she is more important than everybody else is not one where its constituents will learn to respect the time of others. Certainly, a society with inhabitants that put their own interest before others’ will find it hard to grasp the idea of sticking to schedules. When Filipinos know that they can get away with not being considerate of others’ time what reason do they have to change their ways? When Filipinos are lenient and nahihiya in stressing just how important time is (if it even is to them), then will there be any reason for others to follow suit?

Let’s face it. Filipinos have no native concept of efficiency. The idea of getting as much work as possible done in the least amount of time is an alien concept to the Filipino mind. The idea of learning how to do a task in less time is just as alien. Perhaps the natives in old times didn’t need to worry about time, but obviously things have changed. We aspire to be a modern society, so we have to start acting like one, and modern societies take efficiency very seriously.

The lack of efficiency here in the Philippines reflects itself best in the sorry state of our physical infrastructure, especially public transportation. In fact, a stunted ethic of working to schedules is one of the three fundamental roadblocks to improving public transport.

The causal link between time synchronization and the improvement of the Filipino attitude towards time is a long, long way from being established. As long as Filipinos do not see the value of a collective capability of better time management, they will continue to rely on pointless and needlessly labor-intensive solutions in managing their society.

Time is running out for the Filipinos, so to speak.

[Photo courtesy TrekLens]

9 Replies to “Is Philippine Standard Time truly the solution to Filipino Time?”

  1. Filipino concept of appointment time is “I will depart from my house/where I am right now at the time of the appointment”, instead of “I will arrive at the venue at the time of the appointment”

  2. While I value time management, I think we ought to proceed onto this with baby steps. At the very least, things that are expected to run on time (trains, planes, meetings, etc.) should run on time. Social functions can still function on Filipino time, and over time, as punctuality becomes more engrained in the psyche, this will slowly cancel out “Filipino time” altogether.

    There are countries and cultures that are progressive and punctual, yet still allow for people to be “late” in casual social functions, perhaps because they don’t demand the formality of the workplace in these types of functions. In the Philippines’ case, it’s the lack of respect for time *where there needs to be respect for time* that causes us to be so inefficient in managing our time where it needs to be managed.

    1. Fair enough. And that’s the hard part, getting Filipinos to respect time “where there needs to be respect for time.”

    2. What baby steps? How difficult is it to tell time? When the little hand is slightly past the 9 and the big hand is pointing to the 5 that means you’re five minutes late for your appointment. That isn’t rocket science.

      Incidentally, humans have been using “rocket science” for decades to keep very accurate time. The designation of Philippine Standard Time really doesn’t serve any purpose, especially since the country falls into one time zone. It doesn’t add any value to the international standard based on Greenwich Mean Time.

      And there isn’t really any exactness in our regular public transportation system. Jeepneys and buses don’t load or unload in the proper stops. How can they promise that there will be a jeepney at the designated stop at, say, 6:10 a.m.? Even the MRT can’t be said to run according to schedule. While they have implemented a queuing system for public transport, they still can’t guarantee timeliness.

  3. The renown “Philippine Standard” wherein time is not money ought not to be a surprise to the worlds amazement by the introduction to Da Pinas of their three time zones: Eastern, Central, and West. Da genius op Da Penoys.

  4. Time and Space are relative; according to Prof. Einstein. So, if Filipinos are late. They are using time according to their relativity…

    1. Hehehe that’s similar to what we discussed in our Philippine art class. Generally Filipinos see space in art as arbitrary. There’s no distinction between a “private” and “public” space. Guess it’s true for time and rules as well.

  5. “Filipino Time” is an undesirable trait that has been a topic of criticism going back over a hundred years. Jose Rizal discusses it in the opening chapter of “Noli Me Tangere.” Any problem going that far back suggests a deeper cultural distress that won’t be corrected by a piece of useless legislation. It’s just like the pointless exercise of renaming tropical storms and hurricanes when they approach the Philippines.

  6. One of the better solutions probably is to give to power to whoever has authority to ban people from entering when they are late. For example, a wedding reception is scheduled at 7 pm and a person enters at 7.30 then the organizers can refuse entry to that person because he is late. Force will be necessary if he insists on entering.

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