Filipino Time - The Philippines is one of my favorite countries that I’ve visited, but one aspect that I certainly don’t miss was their businesses’ apparent lack of appreciation for people’s schedules. Travelers refer to it as “running on Philippine Time” or running on Filipino Time. Perhaps being “prompt” is a western concept. The customer’s time is consistently not valued. It was as if the times listed on published schedules were merely guidelines. Schedules for flights, buses, and boats were often delayed or canceled without notice or reason.
It might be the least efficient country when it comes to reliability of scheduling (Singapore, the country I’d visit next, was easily the best in this area). It would appear there’s a business opportunity to start a company in the ultra competitive shipping/ferry business which can actually be on time (like Cornelius Vanderbilt did in the United States 200 years ago).
I was starting to think we were just unlucky so I did some research; it’s apparently known as an element built into Filipino culture in the Philippines. This article takes a deeper dive into this phenomenon. It’s interesting because this part of the culture doesn’t seem to be present in my Filipino friends in New York.
On a beautiful sunny day, our flight on was delayed again and again and then canceled, “due to weather.” Whaaat? Local residents said they do this routinely when the plan is undersold. It’s just Philippine Time. That’s a lovely concept when you have no schedule, but when you have connecting flights, we found this lack of reliability to be really frustrating. Don’t rely on Cebu Pacific or PAL.
Getting around in the Philippines is often challenging, and built-in Filipino Time is a wildcard that certainly doesn’t help. For example, the island of Malapascua is known for being one of the best places in the world to go SCUBA diving and see Thresher Sharks, but it’s not easy to get to. Starting in Cebu, the closest major city, you have to get to the top of that island in a town called Maya. There’s a bus but local residents told us it doesn’t leave every day, and never keeps to a schedule. We met some backpackers that said they went two days in a row and the bus never came, with no refund or explanation. The bus, even if it comes on time, doesn’t seem to be coordinated with the ferry to Malapascua schedule, which leaves once per day at 8am. Local residents later explained that’s done deliberately to get people to spend time in Maya. The way to get to Maya is a 4-hour private taxi to Maya, so we found a mini-van taxi to take our group. We were picked up at 4am, in order to arrive before 8am, and then waited for the 8am ferry. 830…and waited…9am. And waited. The ferry didn’t leave until 930am; we later learned that they never leave until the boat is full, even if it takes hours. So we took a taxi at 4am to make sure we took an 8am ferry, which sat docked for 90-minutes.
Upon arrival at Malapascua Island, we booked our SCUBA diving trip to see Thresher Sharks for the following morning. We’d need to be out on the water before sunrise, but to catch a glimpse of Thresher Sharks it would be worth it. We got up at 430am only to have to wait 45min for the boat to come pick us up. eeerrgh. Thanks “Safety Stop” (dive shop in Malapascua). Yet another example of running on Philippine time.