BY ANNE QUINTOS
One minute. The morning shuttle bus here arrives at 9:39 to pick up passengers and exactly leaves at 9:40. I sometimes arrive a minute after, and I get to painfully see the bus leave despite hurrying to catch it. Our house is just five minutes away from the bus stop.
Five minutes. On my first few weeks in Taiwan, I received a call from my American co-worker, at exactly one o'clock in the afternoon, to inform me that everyone was already in the meeting room. They're just waiting for me to start. No thanks to the newbie, the meeting began five minutes late.
One hour. I can't stop my tears from rolling down my cheeks. My then-fiance (now husband) and I had to fly back to the Philippines to attend a pastoral interview a month before our wedding. An hour has passed after our scheduled time, and he was nowhere in sight. I thought he changed his mind. It turned out that he was caught in heavy traffic.
Always. After college, I never had weekday mornings with a well-combed hair or a full stomach.
I know my tardiness is a chronic problem. And as much as I would like to convince the rest of the world that it's just me, I think most Filipinos (not all especially my lola who's always ready two hours before an event) think the same way as I do. "I'm on the way" means I just finished dressing up for a meeting. "Heavy traffic" may mean I ignored my alarm clock and dozed off some more minutes. (Traffic excuses are most often true, see how much money it's costing our country here.)
Here in Taiwan, time is money. Being on time is giving respect to the person. None from the Always-Late Anonymous can say it's not helping Taiwan as a nation. As of 2010, Taiwan's GDP per capita is more than $30,000 USD (whoppin' 90% higher than ours).
I recently came across the Juan Time initiative by the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) that will happen on September 30. It hopes to change our idea of punctuality by promoting to use the "Philippine Standard Time" (PST). For me, it may be a far cry but it's a start. Being a bad tomato for so long, I'm willing to try to change. It won't be easy but it's time for our country to value time.
Starting September 30, I'm up for the challenge of absolving my Juan time crimes. Wish me luck!