“Patience is like bread, I say. I ran out of it yesterday.”
– It’s About Time by The Lemonheads
Some weeks ago, I attended an activity sponsored by a certain NGO. I was informed that it would start at 5 in the afternoon. Since the venue where the activity was going to be held was quite far from where I live, I left my place really early. I was still supposed to finish something before proceeding to the venue but just decided to wrap it up when I get back home. I did not want to arrive late for the group activity.
I arrived at the venue just a little before 5. Since the activity had not started yet, I explored the venue’s lobby, hoping to stumble upon something interesting. Unfortunately, the lobby was so bland and I didn’t find anything amusing at the very least.
An hour had passed and the activity still had not started yet. I was getting impatient already. If I only knew that the schedule was going to be pushed further, I would have just opted to finish the tasks I had earlier that day, instead of rushing to the venue just to be on time. My sister, who was with me at that time, commented, “ang impatient mo naman.” (You’re so impatient.) To which I replied, “Patience is like bread, I say. I ran out of it yesterday.”
The real issue here is not I being impatient, but about keeping schedules. I am aware of Filipino time and I’m not saying that I’m not guilty of it, because I have “abided” by it on several occasions; but I do my best to avoid it. Fine, keep the clock ticking for 15 or 30mins but an hour and running? That’s just plain unprofessional. (and if I may digress a bit, I think that the most “unprofessional” group of people are those working in government offices! I had experienced several times being scheduled for interviews, let’s say for example, 9am but I only get to be entertained 6 hours later! I absolutely hate it. Government offices are the worst kind!)
As I was saying, it was really irritating for my part. My intended responsibilities following that activity were consequentially pushed as well. So much time was wasted.
I once read a book written by a Filipina author for foreigners. It was sort of “a-foreigner’s-guide-to-the-Philippines-handbook,” and it discussed Filipino culture of course. It mentioned the Filipino time concept, where she explained it as “on time” for Pinoys and “late” for those who are unaware of this “norm.” She gave a funny situation and it goes a little something like this: If a Filipina invites you to a party, don’t arrive early because for sure it won’t start yet. You’ll only catch the hostess off guard. If you’re thinking of helping out with the preparations instead, the hostess won’t let you do it. You are after all the guest. By arriving earlier than expected, you’d only make the Pinay feel embarrassed ‘cause everything is not prepared yet. Don’t arrive way “too late” because, well, it’s not really nice to be late, is it? The hostess would think that her invitation is not that important to you. To be “on time,” arrive some 15-30mins after the schedule. This is ok. It’s like a grace period of some sort. This way, you’ll arrive after everything has been set and prepared and at the same time have given the hostess the time to prepare herself as well. “Be a little late to be on time.” What a weird way of being on time, huh?
Yes, Filipino time is an “acceptable” way of life for us, but would it not be nicer if we just try to stick to the schedule once in a while too? It’s also great to be really on time, you know. For me, if you know you cannot make it on time, don’t set it that way. Don’t commit, if you can’t. It’s as simple as that.