Opinion - On the Devaluation of Time and the Philippine Society
If tardiness spelled death, then the Philippines would be a barren paradise--lands of varying terrain totally free of human influence.
Everyone in this country is guilty of this, what I deem, a cancer in society. Even I, who abide by the adage that "time is gold", have been suspect to this what I consider a subtle crime against thy neighbor.
In the Philippines, there is a prevailing time-related concept aptly named "Filipino time", which fundamentally is the "appearance in an engagement an hour or more late than the set time". To the more time-conscious, Filipino time applies after 30 minutes of the agreed appointment.
It has become a peeve on my part when people do not abide by the values of promptness and punctuality. I had once spoke my mind so clearly and told off a friend, who has lived with the the corny sobriquet "Mr. Late", for... well... being late.
There is no excuse for not informing that you will be late prior to your agreed time of meeting... or not trying at all to be on time.
Filipinos like to be special... and one way to demonstrate being such is by showing up late at an event, to live up to that pseudo grand red carpet entrance. The last one to arrive at the party usually gets all the attention.
All the aforementioned superficial thoughts can be translated to a bigger, more substantial Filipino psyche. Tardiness is disrespect for someone's life. You hold that person's life in your hands when you make him or her wait. It is a subtle demonstration of crab mentality inherent in the Filipino culture.
The devaluation of time in the minds of this great nation's people is a show of many of the country's other psychological problems, which includes such uncharacteristically-humane acts as "one against all" and seemingly, nepotism.
A great cause of clogging in the streets of Metro Manila are the public utility vehicles, especially the jeepneys. These are the iconic Philippine-made form of mass transportation derived from the World War II-era American Jeep used as a versatile transport unit.
Jeepneys do not have designated loading and unloading zones... and in many cases, "no loading and unloading zones" are regarded by jeepney drivers as mere suggestions. I know it is unfair to single them out because traffic signs are relegated by most drivers in Metro Manila as ostensibly just that... a street ornament.
And then there are the public utility buses which ply only major thoroughfares in this great nation's capital. Epifanio De Los Santos Avenue, more commonly known as EDSA, becomes the world's longest parking lot during peak hours because of the undisciplined men (or women) behind the wheel... and these are led by bus drivers who wait for their vehicles to fill, making this highway the world's longest bus station which virtually adds to EDSA's claim in the global competitiveness in public transportation infrastructure. It may be unfair to single them out, but you can't blame this writer for stating this claim after reading in a recent news report that average speed along EDSa has increased from 25kph to 60kph after the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) initiated a drive against colorum public utility vehicles, those that do not have permits to operate.
Travel time to and from work takes between 20-30 minutes on my motorcyle in more or less a 15-kilometer journey. This goes up to one hour or longer in a car. What mainly causes the traffic most of the time are jeepneys loading and unloading passengers at any point, taking even longer at high-density areas such as intersections and junctions where it is most convenient for passengers to embark and disembark. What's most unfathomable is when they virtually park their vehicles on the side of the road to wait for passengers--when there are no passengers on sight--clogging the traffic behind them.
Jeepney drivers hold the lives not only of their passengers but also the drivers (and their passengers if any) on their trail as they delay the passage of the latter to their destinations.
This has made me think, how much has the Philippines lost financially due to traffic? There may have been hundreds of instances where business deals have been broken because some executive arrived late for a business meeting with an investor due to heavy traffic.
I know I can put the blame on PUV drivers for causing traffic delays but I do understand that they need to earn to feed their family. I just hate it when some people cry poverty for exemption to mandated laws. I know I can put the blame on the government for not enforcing laws (which apparently are enough to run this great nation smoothly) and I just hate it for not doing so.
I met an Irish tourist last night at a bar in Makati City, the main financial district of this great nation. He was amazed at how laid back the culture is and how time stands still in Metro Manila, but I had to digress from his opinion. I've lived in the country, particularly in Metro Manila, for 20 years of my awesome life and the only thing that stands still in this great nation's capital is the traffic. Everything else is moving at a global economic pace. The closest you get to laid back is when you step right out of Metro Manila, travel at least four hours (without heavy traffic) to any direction, breathe the fresh air, and live like the locals... that, to me, is laid back.
And so this I put forward, it is a complex downward cycle that needs immediate remedy... all of this society's cultural woes can only be solved through discipline which is taught, learned and applied.
Subic Bay, a former US Naval base and the largest in Asia during its time, has been designated a free port zone after its turnover to the Philippine-government in the early 1990s. It is funny that drivers get to follow road rules inside Subic (full stops on intersections or where indicated, abiding by speed limits). But once they step out of the zone, a sort of relapse takes place and they get back to their road-maniac ways.
If Filipinos can abide by the simple rules of any foreign country that they are in, why can't they do so in their own nation?
Herein comes the issue of nationalism. Colonel Muhammar Qaddafi of Libya once said, "Nations, whose nationalism is destoryed, are subject to ruin."
If discipline finds its root into society, then everything else will be put in their rightful place. subic Bay serves as an example, for the whole country especially Metro Manila, that strict enforcement of law is needed to instill discipline.
Ferdinand Marcos would have done it but he instilled fear and anger instead of respect and admiration. The current administration has a separate agenda... or it seems apathetic to this situation.
Can we outsource our leadership...say... to Singapore?