Filipino time - people waiting for transport

Filipino Time: Why Filipinos Come Ahead of Time

Filipino Time, that of being always late, is the opposite of the practice of common Filipinos. We respect and value our use of time. We come to meetings and assemblies ahead of time, sometimes we come too early.

I am writing to foreigners who’ve been misinformed by writers who defined Filipino time based on their limited experiences and knowledge. There are those who regurgitated what has been written to bait clicks. Some talked about their “friends” who came late to meetings but ignored most people around them who came too early for a meeting. Most Filipinos come too early and I will give you examples later.

I am telling you the real story so you won’t be a victim of the colonial lie.

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If you are a local, I encourage you to help stop the racial slander and miseducation. I realized that most of the bad things we say about Filipinos are generalizations. We tend to copy our former masters though they’ve been gone for decades.

Filipinos avoid being late in any meeting, so they prepare very early. Because of this, we often waste productive time. Filipinos are willing to leave before the cock crows in the morning to get to work before 8 a.m. Filipinos are eager to travel for three hours for a 15-minute meeting.

Though there are Filipinos who are habitual late-comers, most Filipinos are too punctual.

The notion that Filipino time means being late to a meeting for an hour or two is a lie told a million times. Unfortunately, even our teachers in school repeat the lie. It was false information accepted hook, line, and sinker.

We come ahead of time to be on time.

When a Filipino meets a foreigner, say in Starbucks, expect him to be there an hour early. We do not want to be labeled as someone practicing “Filipino Time” because the lie was perpetuated by people who love to put down Filipinos. That’s the tragedy. The real meaning of Filipino Time in practice is the opposite of the lie. And it is the slander that gets the attention.

Imagine this: there are a thousand Filipinos in an assembly. Most of them came an hour earlier than the scheduled time. A few persons came late. Then someone calls out those who are late as practicing Filipino time.

Insane, right? Are those who came early not Filipinos?

If you are a foreigner reading this blog, you will soon find out. You go to the countrysides. You will find people who happily work, even for small change, and they are always ahead of time.

If you are a Filipino who has been fed with this lie, open your eyes. If you are a late-comer, you cannot say that all Filipinos are late-comers. There are people who procrastinate. From all over the world. Not just in the Philippines.

But we won’t label Americans who are latecomers as practicing American time, right?

This article is meant to correct the lie.

Here’s is what I know.

It is common for Filipino politicians and self-important people to be late. That is because they want to get everyone’s attention. But not all Filipinos are politicians or think that they are too important.

I have read biographies and discovered that this intention to come late is true almost everywhere. For example, Winston Churchill did it so many times, mostly on important occasions. And he is not a Filipino.

But if one insists on using Filipino time, we must use it to describe those 99 percent who came too early and on time.

The real Filipino time. Filipino children walk to school even before the sun rises.
These young students wake up early, walk to school as the sun rises. (Photo from Unicef)

Go to the countrysides. Children walk some kilometers to reach their schools 30 minutes before the opening bell. Farmers go to fields before the break of dawn. Fisherfolks prepare their bancas long before the cock crows. Mothers wake up very early to prepare “baon” for everyone.

And if you happen to live in Metro Manila, you know that thousands of commuters have to be at the MRT station by 5 in the morning, so they will reach their respective offices before 8 in the morning. They’ll be there hours earlier for a 30-minute ride.

I know this because when I was living in Cubao, I get a bus ride to Makati around 5.30. I reached Makati around 6:15 0r 6:30 am. When we come late, it was almost always because of the terrible traffic situation in the country.

Some would say that we need to adjust ourselves to the traffic situation. I find this thinking ignorant. I have experienced commuting for 3-4 hours for a 15-minute meeting. We waste much time on the road, and that’s the problem, not our sense of time.

When we have offsite team building sessions, many attendees leave their homes around 3 in the morning to be in our meeting place ahead of the agreed assembly time.

If one of 100 is late, I find it insulting to call that Filipino time since the other 99 who came earlier are also Filipinos.

When I fly, I ensure that I am at the airport 2 hours before the boarding time.

So, it is wrong to perpetuate the lies about “Filipino Time.”

An Expat’s Guide defines Filipino time as “being minutes to hours late compared to the standard time.” What a way to put down Filipinos. This definition is based on ignorance. This definition repeats a lie that started during the American colonialization of the Philippines.

During the American period in the Philippines, the American colonizers invented the term “Filipino Time” to mean the habit of always being late to agreed meeting time. It is my hope that the Department of Education will exert efforts to correct this like and call out people who continue to perpetuate this thinking without understanding.

This thinking is not valid.

Filipinos all over the country always come ahead of time if not on time. We are too punctual.

Those who have the habit of coming late do so not because they are Filipinos.

Time management is a problem most people share. You only need to google the phrase to find out that people are looking for ways to manage their time everywhere in the world.

In the olden days, it is easy to believe that being late is a Filipino problem. Not anymore. Our access to interwebs should be enough to correct our miseducation.

What is Filipino time?

Filipino time is the habit of Filipinos who are too punctual. There, I said it. Write it down.

Filipino time is the attitude of Filipinos who respect you and value your time. When meeting people, we believe we must come early and wait for you. We think it is embarrassing to be late for appointments.

When given assignments, we submit them ahead of time. When attending an event, we get there before the actual event begins.

In short, the common misunderstanding about Filipino time is opposite to how Filipinos around the country live their lives.

Hours before a procession of the Black Nazarene, Filipinos line up hours before the church opens. Never late for religious service.

Filipino Time & Our Miseducation

I mentioned above that the phrase “Filipino time” was first used when Americans colonized us. It is a colonial construct. The colonizers must have observed the practice of self-important nouveau riche Filipinos, who tried to act like the self-important old Spanish rulers

It was said that being late for an event is something that Filipinos got from the Spaniards during their rule in the Philippines. Being late symbolizes their importance in society. Some Filipinos did try to act like their former Spanish masters.

But Filipinos have always been punctual. So, this slander does not apply to them.

We navigate through our traffic problem to be ahead of time, the real Filipino time.
Ours is a big transport problem. Filipinos hit the road hours before office hours. We do not to be late when we report to work.

Colonizers Coined Filipino Time

Our former caucasian masters put down our culture, as is evident by how they describe “bahala na” as fatalism or trivialize bayanihan as a “group of men carrying a house to a new location. 

They represent the activities with disdain that they failed to recognize the spirit behind each.

They miseducated us so they can continue to rule us.

Instead of being proud of who we are as a people, we look down on ourselves. If we look down on ourselves, we assume that others are better than us. 

Caucasian rulers don’t have to show their racist attitude on us when we already look down on ourselves.

Filipino time is the opposite of what we are often told. So, educate yourself. And correct the miseducated.

Stop the Slander

Some Filipinos developed the have a habit of putting down most of us Filipinos? They don’t think they belong to us; they belong to their masters. They perpetuate lies, not so different from modern-day paid trolls.

This is why, even in the internet, you will find many articles written by Filipinos that regurgitate the BS. What they are describing as Filipino time in their articles do not represent the Filipinos I know. They themselves take pride in the knowledge that they practice “American time” because they are always on time.

They who live comfortable lives.

They, who do not have to wake up at 4 in the morning to prepare for work.

They, who have never experienced the life of school kids in rural areas who have to walk kilometers to get educated.

It is as if they become better persons when they point to us our flaws as a people. They want us to agree that Filipinos are not as good as the others.

They have muddy spectacles.

To label is to libel. 

The phrase Filipino Time, as coined by our American colonizers, is a label grounded on ignorance and contempt. And they continue to spread the fake narrative.

When someone is late for an appointment, people are quick to say that that is “Filipino time”. They speak as if the majority, those who came early, are not Filipinos. 

It is incumbent upon us to correct the miseducation and define Filipino time based on how it is practiced by us – Filipino time is ahead of time.

Filipino kids have learn how to be ahead of time - the true meaning of Filipino time.
Either we walk or swim, we arrive in school ahead of time.

Filipinos Are Punctual

In the Philippines, most people come earlier than the set schedule. Be it a wedding, baptism, or wake – they often come earlier. Many Filipinos come earlier than the hosts.

In many rural areas, people leave before the crack of dawn. They don’t want to be late. 

We don’t want to be late because we apologize profusely or invent excuses so the other party will forgive us when we do.

That’s why we come early.

When I was in grade 1, our first class starts at 7 in the morning. Do you know that most of us are already in school an hour before school time begins? 

Oh, I still remember that when I was young, the census office was located in Sta. Mesa. The office opens at 8 am. But the queue starts at 5 in the morning. And that is already a long queue.

Being too early is a waste of time. You can blame it on the government’s inefficiency. But people don’t call it Filipino time though those who went very early are Filipinos.

Filipino time means ahead of time.

Self-Important People Make You Wait

 Only the self-important people choose to be late as if doing so will increase their stature in society. In truth, they don’t respect you. They look down on you, so they choose to keep you waiting.

When someone is late, don’t think that he is showing you what is common to Filipinos. Filipinos come ahead of time.

I learned from watching The Crown that important people like the former Prime Minister Winston Churchill deliberately want to make themselves the last person to arrive. Except, of course, when they are meeting the Queen.

While watching the House of Cards, I concluded that the “self-important” people are always the last to arrive.

Do you get me?

When a person is on time, they call it “American time.” 

Not true. 

I know many Americans who come late to appointments. Not only that many of them do not always come on time, many of them do not also make the most out of their time.

But forgive me, an American who is always late, or who keeps you waiting is not practicing American Time. The behaviors of few Americans should not be attributed to all Americans. 

Do you not wonder why Americans have to invent “Time Management’ and why productivity blogs sell?

I made appointments with Italians, Germans, Canadians, Polish, Malaysians, Chinese, Singaporeans, etc. Most of them came on time, and a few came late. 

filipino time is the opposite of tardiness
Filipino time is the opposite of tardiness.

Tardiness of The Self-Important

Being late has nothing to do with race. And though I have limited experience as I have not traveled around the world, I must speak. 

The problem with time is a reality everywhere.

Our understanding of Filipino Time is miseducation. A little reading of Philippine history will show the opposite. Travel around the country, and you will find many Filipinos who value their time and respect yours. We come early, sometimes too early.

To disabuse our young people’s perspective about Filipinos, we need to have another set of eyes. 

Focus on the Positives

Look for their flaws, and you will find many. Find their strengths, and it will not take you long to discover their beauty. You will understand why people from other countries decided to live in the Philippines.

If you are a Filipino, you better redefine Filipino Time to those who were miseducated. 

Be proud of our tradition of being early in every meeting and event.

I can say the same if you are an American, Italian, Polish, German, Malaysian, etc. You will see the world the way you want to see it. You may need a new set of eyes.

Trust that we will not keep you waiting as we respect you and your time. Because making the best use of time speaks about how we value our lives.

If you are looking for opportunities to give your people training on time management, offer a module on Filipino time. Make it clear that you are proud of Filipinos who continue to respect people by being prompt and early.

Filipino time is an attitude of Filipinos who respect you and your time.


The colonial definition of Filipino time is the habit of Filipino leaders to come late in assemblies and meetings. It was coined by the American colonizers who hated the self-important leaders during that time. It was a practice those leaders got from their former colonizers.

But this definition is the opposite of the everyday practice of Filipinos. As practiced by ordinary Filipinos then and now, the real meaning of Filipino time is that of the habit of preparing very early so that they get into a meeting or work ahead of time. Filipinos believe that time is gold.

Being on time means that a person is at the agreed place on the agreed time. It means that the person is punctual. For many Filipinos, being on time may mean that they need to be at the meeting place ahead of time. That is because it is often the case that the traffic situations in Metro Manila are often unpredictable.

For example, when I was still attending the meetings of the Metro Manila Toastmasters Club, members arrive at the Sulo Hotel before 6:30 in the evening. Our meeting starts at 7:00 pm, and we always start on time. In a sense, we always arrive ahead of time so we can start on time.

The opposite of punctual is that of being late, tardy, or delayed. That means that an event started minutes or hours after the agreed time.

It has always been the case that most Filipinos get into an event (say, high school graduation) two hours before the scheduled start of the program. Everyone is excited to start. However, events get delayed because a self-important politician chooses to come late.

Filipino time is being punctual. It even means being ahead of time. Self-important individuals often come late. They like to have a “grand entrance.”

To change the lie and stop the slander, we must deliberately change how we characterize our respect for time. People continue using the term without thinking. Instead of highlighting the few self-important individuals, let us pay more attention to those Filipinos who come ahead of time so they can start on time. These are the characteristics shared by most Filipinos.

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