The Real ‘Filipino Time’

(Part 9 of the “In Defense of the Filipino” series)

FOR anti-Filipinos, the meaning of Filipino time is “always late.” It is said that the Filipino is and will always be late for his appointments. He does not value time. He is never punctual. He wants to be late for gatherings because he likes to get the attention of everyone. He is the one who arrives last; thus, everybody notices him because of his untimely arrival. Are all these negative remarks against us Filipinos true?

Early discipline. Classes in public and private elementary, secondary, and tertiary schools begin at 6:15 a.m. For those in the afternoon shifts, their classes begin at noon.

Morning-shift students wake up before dawn. From the time they get off the bed, they hurry in taking baths or showers, having breakfast, brushing their teeth, and putting on their school attire. It is heartwarming that there are six-year-old Grade One pupils who wake up and take baths or showers that early so that they would not be late for school.

The children do all that to arrive in school before the flag ceremonies, which regularly commence at 6:00 a.m. Those who live in far places wake up earlier to avoid being caught in entangled traffic flows during the morning rush hour.

Most of the teachers and students arrive in schools before 6:00 a.m. For those in the afternoon shifts, they arrive before noon. This is discipline. More than 20 million Filipino students and half a million Filipino teachers practice it.

Work schedule. Work in offices, factories, stores, and other similar establishments begins at eight in the morning. Thus, professionals, employees, and workers also hurry in taking baths or showers, having breakfast, brushing their teeth, and getting dressed to arrive in their places of work early or on time. Such rush is already a regular ritual for the hardworking Filipinos.

Again, it is discipline. Now that they are already in their respective bread-winning fields, they still do what they had practiced when they were still studying.

Market vendors are all ready before dawn so that they can buy the freshest vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, and other wet market items at the delivery centers or slaughterhouses. They have to get the best goods, and they can only do that if they arrive early at the delivery centers or slaughterhouses.

We Filipinos arrive early or on time in our destinations. This is the real or genuine time of the Filipino.

Spanish defect. Why is it that the Filipino is slapped with the accusation that he is always late, even when he arrives in his engagements early or on time?

This has something to do with the Spanish colonization of our race. Being the colonizers, the Spaniards wanted to be superior to the Filipinos and in everything. They wanted to be served, adored, and given all the attention.

On occasions, they wanted everyone to notice their arrival and the importance of their presence. That did that by arriving late.

Jose Rizal told in his first novel, Noli Me Tangere, of Spaniards who did not come on time: “Linares had not yet arrived, for being an important person, he must come much later than the others. There are people who are flattered that for each hour of delay because they have not yet arrived, they become more significant” (p. 329).

In his second novel, El Filibusterismo, Rizal also narrated how the Spaniards loved to be the laggards in gatherings. The play The Bells of Cornville was set to begin at 8:30 p.m., but by 8:45, the show could not yet start because the Spanish governor general had not yet arrived. He came many more minutes later, getting all the attention. But he failed to be the last, for a lady followed him. This lady was also frustrated because there was still an unoccupied seat. Rizal observed:

“Indeed, there are persons who come to the theaters like asses in a race: he who arrives last is the winner. Sane men we know would rather mount the scaffold first than turn up at the theater before the start of the first act” (pp. 165-166).

Rizal castigated his countrymen who were trying to be like Spaniards: “What will you be in the future? A people without character; a nation without liberty; everything that you will posses shall be borrowed, including even your own defects” (p. 171).

Being late is a Spanish defect that some of our ancestors imitated and passed down through succeeding generations. Most of those imitators were the wealthy elite and those working in the government. They loved being special, like the Spaniards. In gatherings, they arrived late to make them more dignified. They would feel elated if there were people who had been waiting for them.

When Spanish rule ended in 1898, the Americans became the new colonizers. Hungry for imperial glory, the Americans tended to criticize and degrade everything Filipino.

The United States president then, William McKinley, said that the Americans would colonize the Philippines because they had to “educate the Filipinos, and uplift, and civilize, and Christianize them.” For them, Filipinos were uneducated, uncivilized, and unchristian. This had become the American thinking of the Filipinos.

When they summoned people to help run the country, the ones who approached them were those wealthy elite and those working in the government who had all borrowed the Spanish defect of being always late. Those people—who were only a fraction of the entire population—did not give importance to schedules; they did not come on time.

Thus, the Americans found another opportunity to criticize and insult the Filipino race. They created the idea that American time was always on time and that Filipino time was always late. This is just one of the negative things that they inculcated into the Filipino consciousness during their half-a-century rule of our country.

How it was invented. When communicating with their superiors in the United States, the American colonial authorities needed to regularly check the time zones because of the time difference between the United States and the Philippines.

The International Date Line dictates that the eastern zone, where Philippine time belongs, is 24 hours or a day ahead of the western zone, where U.S. time belongs. Nature has it that Philippine time is ahead and that American time is behind.

It became uncomfortable for the American colonizers because anything American must always be the superior. That had to be reversed by inventing the Filipino time theory. They found the right time to invent it when they met with those few elite who were always latecomers.

Had the Spanish colonizers invented it, Filipino time would have been called hora de Filipino. Or it would have been oras ng Pilipino, since the Spaniards did not teach us their language but studied and used ours. Its English name itself is the groaning proof that it is an American invention.

Intellectual decolonization. The Spanish colonizers practiced their own time here in the Philippines—always late. Some of our elite ancestors borrowed it. And the American colonizers gave it a name (Filipino time), and wove it into the Filipino consciousness.

Because of the negative remarks that the Americans instilled into the Filipino thinking, like the Filipino time, it is now common to find people who do nothing but praise anything associated with Americans and belittle anything associated with Filipinos.

That is a fruit of “what was eaten is what will be belched.”

Let us now free ourselves from the wrong thinking implanted in us by our colonizers. We should no longer swallow—so that we would no longer belch—what had been wrongfully fed to us. It’s intellectual decolonization.

The real or genuine Filipino time is being early or on time. We Filipinos prove this ourselves when we arrive early or on time in our respective destinations. If there are people who come late, they are not the majority. Which fact weighs heavier: The few who are late, or the majority who are early or on time?

To decolonize our minds, let us stop being narrow-minded: Always bashing the Filipinos as if we were totally hopeless and useless, and insulting the entire Filipino race for the faults of some people. If there are latecomers, think or say: “There are people who are really like that.” Use people, instead of Filipino.

Having latecomers on occasions cannot be avoided because there is no perfect person, race, or country. There will really be individuals who will be late, whatever their races are.


  1. eugene codiamat says

    oh! i used to go to the meetings 15 minutes early to familiarize myself with the audience, not anymore …
    i guess filipino time is slowly creeping to other culture.
    that won’t be shock for me…btw i’m still on the dot.
    whatever i do i can’t stomach to blame on somebody because
    it’s me.

    • Jon E. Royeca says

      “i guess filipino time is slowly creeping to other culture.”

      What do you mean? The always-late habit has emanated from us and is now spreading to other lands? That’s a pernicious accusation.
      Don’t other cultures have it?

  2. Lianne habana says

    Thanks you for your insightful essays and i am glad that there are others who look beyond the blind criticism of Filipino culture to look at its historical roots. Really, this is needed to counter pernicious writers like the infamous “damaged culture” Fallows guy who denigrates things he does not understand. Sadly, instead of being critical of this, so many “educated” Pinoys jumped onthe bandwagon and agreed with him without even looking at the historical context and background. good job!

  3. Jon E. Royeca says

    Thank you, Ms. Habana. I hope more of us would realize that what others (anti-Filipinos) have been saying against ourselves inflict severe damages on the way we look at and consider ourselves as a people. Even if it is inherent in the human being to criticize, at least, we should avoid those anti-Filipino remarks that debase our race.

  4. Alfonso says

    Just to add to that in Brazil, VIP’s are expected to come late for everything. It’s not just 1 hour. People who perform well at school are the ones who never arrive early. It’s part of the Brazilian culture.

    Thank you for your article. Like you, I am very patriotic.

  5. says

    Having travelled, live and worked in US & UK, I found your observation quite irritating on Filipino time. Go teach in philippines schools and you’ll see reality, students got that knack for arriving late with a million excuses.

  6. Jon E. Royeca says


    If there are students who arrive late, they are not the majority.

    If my comments on Filipino time are irritating, it’s because you already have the premise that Filipinos are erratic. Whatever good that we Filipinos do will always mean nothing to anti-Filipinos like you.

  7. Jon E. Royeca says


    Thank you for the information on Brazil.

    I hope you are sincere in saying you are patriotic. There are some people who claim that they like what I write, but make a 380-degree turn after I have thanked them.

  8. aldrin says

    hello Mr. Royeca

    my classmates and I have a research study about ‘Filipino time’. Thanks to your article,it help us a lot and it perfectly fits for our research. may we know your sources or references for your article? Can you give us some books about it that will help us in our research?

    thank you!

  9. Jon E. Royeca says

    @ aldrin

    Thank you for reading and for the comment.

    My sources are Rizal’s novels, the Noli and Fili, as stated in the article. You may also visit:

    These articles explain why there are anti-Filipino prejudices, like the “Filipino time.”

    “Filipino time” is an English term. Who else would invent it?

  10. Jon E. Royeca says

    Some may question why I used Rizal’s novels as bases for this article, since those novels are fictional works.

    Although Rizal’s novels are works of fiction, their setting, characters, and tempo are based on actual events. Rizal himself attested to this.

    In a letter to his Austrian friend Ferdinand Blumentritt dated Berlin, Germany, March 21, 1887, Rizal said:

    “[The Noli} is the first impartial and bold book on the life of the Tagalogs. The Filipinos will find in it the history of the last ten years. … The government and the friars will probably attack the work, refuting my arguments, but I trust in the God of Truth and in the persons who have seen our sufferings at close range. Here I answer all the insults, which have been intended to belittle us. …”

    — The Rizal-Blumentritt Correspondence, Centennial Edition, Manila: Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission, 1961, Part 1, p. 62.

    In a letter to a compatriot dated Berlin, March 7, 1887, Rizal said:

    “Noli Me Tangere, words taken from the Gospel of Saint [John], mean ‘touch me not.’ The book contains, then, things that nobody in our country had spoken of until the present. They are so delicate that they cannot be touched by [anyone].

    “With reference to myself, I have attempted to do what nobody had wished to do. I have replied to the calumnies that for so many centuries have heaped on us and our country.

    “I have described the social condition, the life there, our beliefs, our hopes, our desires, our complaints, our sorrows. …

    “I have lifted the curtain in order to show what is behind the deceitful and glittering words of our government.

    “I have told our compatriots our defects, our vices, our culpable and cowardly complacency with the miseries over there. Whenever I have found virtue[,] I have proclaimed it and render homage to it. …

    “The incidents I relate are all true and they happened; I can give proofs of them. My book may have and it has defects from the artistic or aesthetic point of view. I don’t deny it[,] but what cannot be questioned is the impartiality of my narration.”

    — Rizal’s Correspondence with Fellow Reformists, Centennial Edition, Manila: National Heroes Commission, 1973, pp. 83-84.

    Rizal’s novels are works of fiction, but they also sincerely portray the political, social, and cultural colors of the period when the novels were written.

  11. Jon E. Royeca says

    The “always late” instance involving the Spaniard Linares is in Chapter 60 (61 in other versions) of the Noli: “Wedding Plans for Maria Clara.”

    The “always late” instance in the Fili is in Chapter 22: “The Performance.”

    Simoun’s criticism of imitating the Spanish, including their defects, is in Chapter 7: “Simoun.”

  12. Antonio says

    I think the negative connotation of “Filipino time” only refers to tardiness in socializing and social events and I don’t think its a bad thing! But we’re not alone in that – the Russians, the Italians, even the Kiwis come in late for their social gatherings even though they may come in on time for business meetings or school or airplane rides!

  13. Lex says

    Everything I say is based on observation.
    The thing about modern Filipino Time, is that it only happens informal meetings, rarely on formal. If a group of friends agreed to meet at 10, they would think to themselves “They will be late so I’d rather be late than showing up early and end up being a loner.” If someone arrives early, he or she learns his/her lesson and will not come early next time they decided to meet again. Thus, we are trapped on a dilemma, being late or a loner.
    In formal meetings, late comers usually is a result of thinking that “I don’t want to be early (what would I do there?), I want to be on time”. But because they only estimated, external factors like heavy traffic and other misfortunes was not taken in consideration, thus, they will be late.

  14. Jon E. Royeca says

    @ Antonio, Lex: Perhaps, it could be. And I really agree that other peoples also come late. This only shows that humans are indeed humans. We will never be perfect. Thanks for reading this piece.

  15. mc says

    your article is very inspiring and well-researched if i may say. :)
    it’s sad though that some filipinos adhere to the “filipino time” concept and even use it as an excuse for their tardiness. but with writers like you i hope we can spread the word and change this. :)

  16. belle says

    hi sir jon:-) i would like to thank u for this article because it really made me understood on what is really a ”FILIPINO TIME”. as i start reading, i am really interesting to read the whole story because i really want to know what is really meant by FILIPINO TIME. and i felt sad when other people mistaken to use the Filipino TIME as a negative well in fact, being late is a Spanish Defect.
    at least, now i know already that a FILIPINO TIME is being early or on time and we FILIPINOS, are hardworking people, skillful and most of all we are GOD-FEARING PEOPLE which is so true.:-)
    MABUHAY ANG MGA PILIPINO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Cedrick Magsino says

    thanks for this article it will help me a lot especially in my thesis about the notion of Filipino time

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