Any foreigner staying here long enough soon finds that he or she has to consider three kinds of time: Greenwich Mean, Philippine Standard and Somebody Else's. Philippine Standard adds eight hours to GMT. Somebody Else's is always an hour later than your own - whatever that time might be. Suppose you set a meeting for 9am. Somebody Else shows up at 10am (on second thoughts, make that 'almost everybody else'). Or, you get an assurance that the project will be finished 'on time'. According to Somebody Else, 'on time' actually means 'give or take a month'. Somebody Else's Time is more popularly called 'Filipino Time', which differs from Philippine Standard Time in that clocks are read with a lot of discretion. Americans and Europeans see an appointment as something set in stone, but to many Filipinos it is set in sand, which you can almost hear trickling away as you wait for a scheduled event to start. Practically everything is delayed here: deliveries, meetings, appointments, film showings, government projects and transactions. You get some idea that it might be a problem by the fact that, last November, we observed a National Consciousness Week for Punctuality - and I am not going to make any jokes about how it was held late in the year. Sociologists think that we got Filipino Time from our Spanish overlords, who cultivated the impression that the later somebody arrived, the more important that person was. I have attended scores of management conferences where a boss would wait until 15 minutes past the agreed time and then sweep in grandly. If they had word balloons, like cartoon characters, they would say: 'What a VIP I am.' And the word balloons of those who were kept waiting would be censored. As you can guess, life is hard for people - like me - born without a sense of Filipino Time. I tend to go in the opposite direction. Worried by such factors as traffic, transport availability, wind velocity and the possibility of earthquakes, I tend to allot plenty of time to get to appointments, so I usually arrive up to a day early. Once, I was an hour early for a press conference, and was surprised to find that someone had preceded me. I found out later that there were prizes for 'early bird' attendees. So, there is one solution: more Filipinos would be prompt if they were rewarded - or given electric shocks, perhaps. In the meantime, Filipino Time is so reliable that you can set your watch by it, provided it has a setting that says 'forget it', 'you haven't a hope' or 'ha-ha, did you really think that anybody would show up now?'