Growing up in the Philippines, there seemed to be two very contradictory mindsets about time management. On one hand, there’s the carefree mindset of “Filipino Time”, that for everything, from community meetings to family gatherings, everyone will be late by at least 30 minutes if not more. It’s definitely a common joke, when you arrive at a location and after 15 minutes, half of the people you are waiting for haven’t arrived yet. Oftentimes as a result, a domino effect of lateness happens, where some people purposely arrive late as they expect others will be late anyways.
On the other hand, I also learned that being on time in professional settings is important and being late can have severe consequences. Being on time with no excuses was drilled into my mind as a child. From elementary to high school, I have memories of the loud school bells announcing that there are 15 minutes left before the morning flag ceremonies, and then the second school bell when students are expected to be lined up in front of their classrooms or school grounds.
Less than five minutes after that final morning bell, if as a student, you are still outside the school gates, you will likely be locked out while everyone else is doing the morning prayers and singing the national anthem. When the gates are opened again when the students are walking to the classrooms, you would do the walk of shame, catching up with your classmates before the first class.
In high school, it was even stricter. If your school then had the Citizenship Army Training program and you were late, your officer would punish you, military-style for being late. This is not good, as it can draw the ire of the rest of your homeroom classmates if all of them have to do push-ups or sit-ups due to one person’s fault.
For myself this was difficult to navigate. As someone who is diligent, who wants consistency, and aims to be thoughtful, I strongly believe that time is precious and acting accordingly is a sign of respect and care.
In the end, what resonated with me is that being on time for everything is a priority for me. As a result, when someone is late, I get furious. I have enough self-control to not lash out and yell at the latecomer, especially if they are our elders. But for quite some time, the visceral anger inside of me was really palpable, just bubbling underneath.
It took me some time to mellow down and be a bit more understanding. Luckily, I still haven’t yelled at anyone who is very late.
Living in Canada, I observed that most of the time, people seem to value being on time. Most people are also diligent with letting others know if they are unexpectedly running late and being apologetic when it does happen.
I’m still in the process of managing fluid norms and processes about time management. I have to remind myself that the only person I can control is myself. That if I have done everything I can to respect other people’s time, that is a good reason to have peace of mind and remind myself “I’ve done what I could” and that everything else is out of my hands. Thankfully we have smartphones now to kill time while waiting for someone.
I’ve also set boundaries for myself. My cut off for “ghosting” is half an hour. If I am an early arrival at an event or workshop, I would greet the event organizers and offer to help in simple ways that a guest could. As an introvert, arriving early also helps with easing myself in the crowd, especially in events where I attend alone. This also gives me the confidence to leave the event early if I feel that I have adequately participated in the activities and festivities.
Am I still furious about the careless lateness encouraged by “Filipino Time”? Yes. But I’m confident in my personal strategies to relieve myself of unnecessary stress and conflicts.