Living on Filipino time

Kat Mayo

For many Filipinos, a watch is not a timepiece, it’s more of an accessory. By KAT MAYO

clock If there’s one thing Australia has failed to wean out of me, it’s my inability to be on time. Filipinos call this ‘Filipino time’; Aussies call it being late.

I try my best. My clocks and watches are set at least fifteen minutes ahead. I put things in my calendar half an hour before they start. But nothing has worked. My husband has resorted to scheduling activities an hour ahead, just to ensure I’ll be ready on time.

My chronic lateness is a running joke with my Aussie friends. What they don’t seem to understand is that I regard the clock, with its authoritarian precision and merciless advance, as a mere guide to life rather than its master.

It’s not you; it’s me

Aussies take my lack of punctuality personally, but I think most Filipinos would agree that our lateness has nothing to do with disrespecting our friends’ time. I have no sense of time. Filipinos are eternal optimists, and we think everything will take no more than fifteen minutes. We have to get to a party at Blacktown from Parramatta? Yeah, half an hour should be okay. It’ll take me five minutes to shower, get dressed, do my hair, wrap the present…

If all else fails, blame the kids

Kids make excellent scapegoats for being late. When a midwife mentioned that, out of necessity, parents of twins tend to be more organised and therefore more punctual, I thought she was out of her mind. Not only will friends find twins an acceptable excuse for being an hour late for a party, they’ll praise you for managing to get there at all. When to be on time

I’ve been late to baptisms, weddings, funerals and everything in between. But there are certain times when being late means you risk being ostracised by your family and friends. If you have a special role in an event—if you’re a ninang or part of the bridal party—then it’s a good idea to get there on time. I was smack bang on time for my own wedding and you should have seen the surprise on everyone’s faces. That’s how my husband knows I love him.

When scientists decode the human genome, maybe we can finally discover a biological cause for Filipino time. I’ll be first in line for the cure. It’ll only take me fifteen minutes to get ready.

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