Saturday, June 4, 2011


There are two things I remember from my late father.

He insisted that one's penmanship reflects the degree of dignity in a person's character.  He had such impeccable handwriting.  I remember my Dad using the same Parker pen for years, rendering those beautiful perfectly looped l's and p's in his favorite blue black ink. 

Another thing that my father always insisted on was punctuality.  

Oh, that old man hated being late.  He always told us that it was the height of being insensitive, inconsiderate ... and (to use a term often sputtered by my mother) so maleducado to make anybody wait.  My father said that once you make an appointment, you actually enter a contract which requires a commitment. You actually allocate your time inasmuch as you make demands from somebody else's time ... and it was only out of respect for the other person or persons that you get your ass out there at the precise moment agreed upon by all parties concerned. One's sense of time reflects the all so precious palabra de honor.

That was why my father never understood the crassness and inconsiderate behavior in others by not feeling any sense of offense in being late. Not only did he find this vulgar but also insulting. For my father, wasting somebody else's precious minutes of the day is tantamount to downright kabastusan.

We tried explaining to him that Filipinos never really took appointments all that seriously. We explained to him that together with palabra de honor and delicadeza came the sense of manana time. We tried to convince him that it is not a personal assault or insult to come late because ... uh, we are ... after all, Pinoys in the Philippines.

That is why when you ask someone, "What time do you want to meet?" ... you never get a reply like, "Let's meet at 9:00AM" ...or worse, "Let's see each other at 9:02:30AM, Bangkok Time."  Filipinos will always mumble, "Around nine?" (which actually means anything between 9:00 to 9:59AM assuming that you have agreed that the time being mentioned is in the morning).  Seldom can you come across someone who will be there at the exact time you set for your appointment.  

There are people who have this natural predilection for being tardy with a cause.  Let me clarify that.  

Some people are genuinely late because they have fifteen thousand possible excuses for tardiness. In other words, they are just clumsy and careless but not deliberate or malicious.  They never get there on time because they always miscalculate their ability to get from Point A to Point B: this is usually because of their lack foresight or they really have bad timepieces to get them through their days. Or they are certified space cadets who cannot get through the day without the aid of Prozac.

There is always the excuse of Manila traffic (and how can you argue with that?)or even the endless possible combinations and permutations of domestic/personal/ international tragedies big and small which can be a valid cause of delay.  

(I have often asked myself why city folks of the Metro still use traffic as an excuse. Considering we all know that this city's main thoroughfares are as clogged as their sewers, you would think that urbanites already know that it is necessary to give more than enough leeway to be able to meet an appointment. If you know there is going to be a bottleneck traffic mess somewhere, then is that not reason for you to give allowance by leaving your point of origin earlier? Ah, but that is so un-Filipino, I guess.  As I told my Dad, Filipinos never look farther than the tip of their noses.)

But there are others who make a career out of being deliberately late.  And their reasons are equally valid ... because they exist in their own parallel universe where Elvis is still alive.  

Well, yes: there are some who love dramatic entrances.  

These are the people who a) hate being the first to arrive at a party only to find themselves nibbling on appetizers while waiting for the rest of the guests to arrive or b) love being the last to arrive to make sure that their entrance will be reason enough to celebrate. So that is why when Filipinos host parties, you never take the call time seriously because everybody hates being the first to arrive. And sometimes they do not even need any form of social gathering to make dramatic entrances.  They want not only to be counted but noticed.

Even with business meetings, airport departures or dental appointments, Filipinos find themselves always in a hurry to get to a designated place on time.  They will always have the reason to be rushing and beating the deadline.  Foreigners do not understand this --- and, maybe like my father, misunderstand this practice as disrespect for somebody else's time or downright lack of discipline. But perhaps it has got something to do with our natural sense of creating excitement or our appetite for panic.

We love the adrenaline rush.  We also love to feel like we are losing control.  We love to trip, stumble and hopefully not fall. And, perhaps as an addendum to all this, we love to procrastinate.  Inasmuch as we have all these excuses why we are late, we have an equally long list of reasons why it is still too early to make a move. So look at where our country is now? If my Dad were still alive today, I would hate to listen to a two-hour lecture called his opinion.

Oh, but the worst kind of latecomer is he who deliberately makes people wait just to prove to everyone how important he is.

In show business, such creatures are quite common.  They have become facts of life for people in production who are trained to be patient and learn the art of waiting as if it were part of their survival kits.  Whereas there are luminaries who still believe and practice punctuality to the point of being obsessive, there are those who manifest their insecurities by making everybody wait for them for hours ... and without even giving these poor minions the benefit of a token apology.

These super-assholes make the production feel that it is their obligation to wait ... because it is equally the privilege of anyone to work with a star of such proportions. Ah, OK. Time to learn how to cross-stitch, embroider, crochet, knit or play marathon games of Angry Birds just to prove your love for such self-proclaimed demigods.

But that, I guess, is a different realm all together.  Some people need to foist just how indispensable they are to the lives of others by showing them a little bit of power ... and making them feel a dosage of timely misery.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) I have inherited my Dad's preoccupation for punctuality.  And there are times I ask myself if it is really worth all this aggravation to be so particular to be on time or to deliver promises on or before deadlines.   Yes, this can be all so frustrating considering that a great number of people around me do not take the same priorities seriously.  

But I keep remembering what my Dad used to tell me: "Punctuality is a virtue of kings."

So I just keep telling myself that in a world of commoners, I would still prefer to behave like royalty.

1 comment:

  1. Direk

    I love this post simple because I am also one who wants to be punctual. I hate it when people pull the stunt of being late when they already know how bad traffic can be and worse, they come in late even if they just live around th neighborhood. (I've had that experience, somebody being late 4 out of 6 days in a week and she lives nearby).

    Now I will take your message to heart and just think that I have a virtue of royalty (now how to be patient......tap tap tap...)

    Antonio Sy Jr. (your friend in FB)