Murphy’s Law of Time in the Philippines

dali-timeI suppose if there’s a Filipino version to Murphy’s Law it goes something like this;

If you are in a hurry.. expect everything to be running late.  And if you are running late, expect that everything will be right on time.”

It all started with a nap on Thursday.  It was only about 5pm but I was really tired from being up late the night before and getting only a few hours sleep that day.  So I figured on a half-hour nap, cook some dinner, surf the net and then go to bed around 10pm because I needed to catch a flight the next morning, set to leave at 11:40am.


But that ‘nap’ turned into 4 hours of sleep.  So I woke up Thursday around 9pm completely wide awake.  Long story short.. I couldn’t make myself sleep, not even with a Melatonin (my last one) and so I ended up going to bed at around 3am.  I had also spent part of Thursday taking a VHire and taxi to two locations in order to get my driver’s license converted.  But that didn’t happen because the same LTO Chief that told me I needed to go to Cebu for my license also forgot to sign her authorization on my paperwork so that the other office would accept my drug and eye exam tests.  (Don’t even get me started on WHY this should even be necessary when the test locations are sanctioned by the LTO offices.)

So.. Friday morning my alarm went off at 9am.  My flight wasn’t until 11:40am and I only live ten to fifteen minutes from the airport.  I listen to the planes take off every night and see them daily from my porch.. I am really close to the Cebu airport so I figured, no problem.  I was already packed the night before.  All I needed was 15 minutes to shower,DaliTime 5 minutes for some coffee and I’m out the door.  I should be out the door by 10am.. 10:20am (max) with plenty of time to check-in for my flight and sit around bored in the terminal.

If only.

So I showered, gulped down my coffee and at 10am I was out the door.. right on schedule.  I get to the Grand Mall where the taxis convene and.. dammit, not a taxi to be seen anywhere.  And on top of that, three people ahead of me waiting for one.  Fortunately, by 10:10am I am in a taxi for the brief ride to the airport.  I should be there by 10:30 at the latest, still on schedule. And then we hit traffic.  WHY is there traffic at 10am??  Isn’t that supposed to happen at 7am when people are going to work and taking their kids to school?  I keep glancing at my cell phone.. already 10:30am and I’m only five blocks from my house.. stuck in traffic.

10:45am and I’m finally on the main road again and moving about 30 miles an hour.  The airport is so close I can almost smell the jet-fuel.  Just a few blocks up the road, around the corner and we’re there.  10:55am and I’m finally dashing out of the taxi and getting into the terminal.  I get to the desk and they tell me, “Sorry, Sir.  But check-in for your flight ended just five minutes ago.

What??  It’s 11:00am.  Flight isn’t to leave until 11:40am.  Plenty of time to walk over there and get on the plane.  But.. nobody’s budging, I get cut off the flight-list and the next flight isn’t for another 5 hours.  Great.  One simple taxi ride.. plenty of time to get there and now I gotta wait for the next flight.  So I wait and make it on the 4:30pm flight instead.

The trip from that point on when really well.  I was able to see a bit of Iloilo for the first time and met lots of wonderful people there.  Then it was time to come home.  I got set transhippingup for a boat ride return to Cebu with Trans Asia Shipping (which has nothing to do with ladyboys as it turns out).. in the tourist section.  That’s an air-conditioned room with a decent bunkbed.  It was also a 12 hour boat ride.  Fortunately for me, I slept almost ten hours of that time.  I was really tired coming home.

I had an incident with the taxi driver on the way home, which I’ll go into more detail on separately.  It’s only 8am and armed with a good night’s sleep I figure it’s time to finally make a 3rd trip to Cebu City so I can get my license converted.  I’ve already made one trip only to find out the eye exam person had gone home, so I only got the blood test and paid fees that day.  I had gone back a second time.. in the rain, only to be re-directed from Lapu Lapu to the office in Cebu City.  As I mentioned already, on account of the missing signature from the LTO Chief I didn’t my license that day either.  Now, I don’t mind jumping from a tricycle to a van to a taxi to get from one island to another.  But doing it repeatedly because of some minor technicality just drives the OCD in me completely insane.  I like business items to be done as efficiently as possible.  I don’t like to waste time, energy or money and getting this license conversion was turning into a vexing experience.

But.. now that I had the documentation I needed, the signature from the LTO Chief and my exams completed, I figured today (Monday) was a good day to return once again to Cebu City for what they told me was a simple 20 minute process now that all my docs are ready.  So.. once again I make the trip out there.  I’m leaving for Bohol in three days so I really want to get this done in order to drive my own motorcycle (when I get one) there in Bohol.  This time I pay for a taxi to take me directly to the LTO office and skip the usual modes of transport.  I just want to finally get this DONE.

I arrived at the LTO office with plenty of time to spare.  I knew where the office is now, so I went directly there and entered.. ignoring the ‘fixers’ and callers for other unofficial services outside the office.  I go in and the lady behind the desk remembers me from my previous trip.  She was the one who told me I needed that signature.  I handed her the paperwork, making a point to show her the fresh signature.  She’d already seen both my California license and passport the last time I was there and I handed her copies of each.  I sat down in anticipation of finally getting my license on this 3rd trip to Cebu City.  “Third time is a charm.”, right?  Not this time.

I need to see your original license and passport now.”  I gave her my license and told her, “Well, the passport you saw the last time I was here and it matched the copy you have here.  I don’t have the passport with me at this moment.”  I could have guessed where this was going.

I’m sorry Sir, but we cannot issue your license today unless you return with your passport.”, she said flatly.

Now.. I’m a fairly calm and patient person 99% of the time.  But.. dammit, I really had my hopes up this time.  I had the passport with me the last time.  But when they turned me away for not having the signature, I’d put away my passport in a safe place days ago.  Meanwhile, half my brain was really frustrated and the other half was livid at the incredulity of this scenario.  Given the situation, personally I think I stayed pretty damn calm.  Security didn’t seem to think so.

But..”, I said as nicely as I could, “ already saw my passport the last time I was here, just a few days ago.  You have the copy right here.  I am still the same person.  Can’t you just keep the copy for the files?”  I really was trying to sound as sane as possible.

I need to see your original passport.  You will need to return with that and this wahwahdocumentation in order to get your license.”

I attempted to plead to her sense of humanity at this point, “But.. I’ve come here twice now, from Lapu Lapu.  I’ve come all this way already.  Is there no way to use the documentation here in addition to having seen my passport from before??

If you return with your passport we can issue you a license at that time.”  She wasn’t budging.

Now.. at the EXACT same time as I’m dealing with this, from the corner of my eye I notice that security is now standing over me.  So as I’m trying to rephrase my request or approach this from another angle, I began talking to myself out loud.. as I’m oft to do when frustrated.  I wasn’t talking to her, I was talking to myself.  Not screaming, just talking out loud.

What I said was, “For cryin’ out loud.  I can’t believe this is happening.”

So now I have this security guy distracting me with some plastic sign he’s holding near my head.  My eyes are focused on this woman and how I might better plead my case so I pretty much ignored whatever security-guy was doing.  But he kept on waving it in front of me until he had this sign about four inches from my face.   I’m far-sighted so I leaned back, away from the sign and said, “What?  What is this?”  I look at the sign he’s holdingwhat did i say in my face and it says, “PLEASE NO OBSCENITIES IN THIS OFFICE.”

I (almost).. almost said out loud, “What the f*ck did I say??”  But I caught myself and said, “What?  Why are you showing me that?  What did I say?  I’m not using obscenities.”

Then the woman herself said, “Ignore that, that is not relevant.”  So at least the desk lady agrees with me that I’m not cussing.  But she did repeat with some sense of finality, “Just return with your passport and we can issue your license.”  And what I said was.. (a little louder this time)…

Ohhh.. fuh cryin’ out loud, this is insane.”.  And once again I have security-guy sticking the sign in my face.  So I told him, “All I said was, ‘for crying out loud’.. it’s a common expression.”  And now he’s getting even more pissy that I’m supposedly still cussing.   Again with waving the sign in my face.  Which is genuinely starting to get on my nerves now.   Apparently he thinks I’m saying something like “..oh f*cking out loud” (which doesn’t even make sense) and now things are getting tense.

So I finally resigned myself to the situation and told the lady, “Ok.. fine.  I guess I’ll have to return again since the other LTO office doesn’t have a lamination machine.” and got up to leave.  All this because my local office hasn’t fixed or replaced their $50 lamination machine in the last year or so.  I rose from my seat to leave the office, I politely said, “Ok, thanks.” and made my exit.  When I had made it to the sidewalk outside, THEN I said out loud, “What the F*ck!“.

Nobody on the sidewalk really seemed to care.

I walked into traffic so I could climb onto a jeepney that was going to the Cebu SM mall.  Normally I’d wait on the sidewalk but I really didn’t seem to care at this point, I just wanted to get away and cool off.  So now I’m at the Cebu SM mall, having wasted yet another afternoon on this task and still looking at the prospect of returning, yet again, tomorrow.  With the passport.

So.. back to the axiom.  If you have two or three tasks lined up for the afternoon and any of them relies on things happening in a reasonable period of time, there’s a good chance you’ll be doing the “hurry up and wait” routine.  Getting a small basket of groceries last week took me 45 minutes, just in the line.. and that was with only four people in line front of me.  I mean.. the laser-scanners.. I thought that was the end of slow lines.  For some reason even scanning items can be slowed down to a crawl.

But.. if you are even 5-minutes late for something.. suddenly the universe is running exactly on time and if you’re late then.. well, you’re screwed.  In the US movie theaters, we all know that if the movie says it shows at 4:30pm, in reality the Previews start showing at 4:30p and your movie actually starts at about 4:45pm  As I found out.. not here.  The previews start at 4:15p and if you stroll in a few minutes after 4:30p, the movie is already showing.

Now, the majority of the time here I’ve got plenty of time on my hands.  I can afford to allot 90 minutes for getting bread and eggs from the market.  The only way to really avoid getting stressed is, “Never be in a hurry.”


Post Script/Update:  It’s end of the day on Tuesday and after returning to the LTO one more time I was able to get my license converted.  I stopped by the desk-lady with a big smile on my face and told her thank-you, showed her the card and was on my way happy as a lark.  Now that I have a license.. now all I need is a vehicle.  That’ll wait until I get settled in at Bohol.  One thing at a time.. one thing at a time.  🙂
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Author: Reekay

About Me.. In 2011 I made the decision to move to the Philippines within a year. Since 2012 I’ve been traveling through various islands of the Philippines as a full-time Expat. (Mactan, Bohol, Panglao, Moalboal, Dumaguete, Bacong, Boracay, Cebu) I recently spent the year living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Share with me here my ongoing adventures of life in the Philippines. Dating, vlogging, cooking, traveling and sharing the information with you needed to make your own plans for living as a full-time expat in Southeast Asia.
— Reekay


  1. Hola Amigo – NICE. Just remember………..relax, enjoy, and FORGETDABOUTIT! Small price to pay for “wandering aimlessly in paradise” LOL Best, Al, Washington , DC

    1. Yah, 99% of the time I’ve got plenty of time to kill and things go fairly smoothly. Beats the rat-race back home any day. In fact, I’d say that a ‘bad’ day here is what I used to call a regular or easy day in the States. But I do want to check this task off my ‘To Do’ list before going to Bohol so.. back at it tomorrow.

      1. Good to see you made it home safe Henry, as far as LTO goes, my wife is always telling me, go with the flow, this is the Philippines. I am a very high strung guy wanting things to go smooth but I am ready for Melotonin or Calm Tabs every single time I go out to get anything done. 9 times out of 10 it does not go as expected and I am back trying again in 2 days, lol, cant go back the next day or the security guard will be waving the sign in front of my face. Sorry to miss you here in Iloilo but I understand what happens with family here. Hope to seeya next week when we are in Cebu, until then, Go with the flow, take some Valerian Root or Melotonin and relax here in paradise. Mayong Aga, Alan

        1. Hey Alan, it would have been cool to meet up there in Iloilo but as I kinda expected we went on a whirlwind tour of the province to meet Delia’s family she hadn’t seen in decades (her Father’s side of the family). Wonderful people, very hospitable and down to earth. Once there I had great time.

          I only have until Thursday to get this done so, no break for me. ha! I’m gonna try to get this done today.

  2. It’s the little things that get to you here in the Philippines. Rarely are things completed in one go. Government requirements are sticklers for detail yet there lives lack the detail needed for their own success.
    I leave most of the official paperwork to my wife for obvious reasons.
    Funny, in a country with people that have short life spans, you would think that they would be in a hurry to complete their tasks.
    Ah we’ll there is always tomorrow!

    1. Totally agree. Someday.. I’ll have an asawa to smooth out these sort of paperwork/filing issues. For now, maybe stopping for a massage on the way home would do me some good. 🙂

  3. Hi Henry, Philippines is their country not ours. We are guest in the Philippines. We can change ourselves but we cannot change the Philippines. Someone has said it online before something like “If you don’t like it then you can leave”. Bureaucracy in the Philippines is well established. The country is changing to be more westernized but the change is slow. Take it easy and enjoy your stay there. You have a lot more time than me in California. It is not worth to stress ourselves over the little thing. I would trade place with you anytime. Life in CA is a lot more stress than the LTO office red tape. Take care and relax. Take it easy and be happy.

    John Tu

    1. It’s true. In fact, I think having one perfect day after another here it’s easy to get spoiled when something doesn’t go as expected. But even in California, if I had to make 4 trips to the DMV, I’d not be digging that scene either. Good thing is, I finally got my license. I made a point to stop and give a hearty, “Thank you.” to the lady at the desk. She could tell I was really happy and relieved to finally get it. Another good thing is that it’s good for 3 years so, I can forgettabout the LTO for quite some time. 🙂

  4. I learned long ago to never schedule more than one important task per week. Remember, the achievement of one important single task can have historical significance! (and anyway, the beer tastes to damn good to worry about it!) Drive safely Henry!

  5. I noticed that you had a restriction 2 Licence which does not allow you to drive a motorbike. The police will fine you if they catch you in Lapu-Lapu but maybe on Bohol they will be more lenient.
    To add to the horror of this experience, I was applying for a motorbike and a car licence (same as my UK) conversion. I was told that they could not issue a licence for both at the same time and I would have to return for the bike licence. Isn't it all unbelievable? In the Philippines they make simple things difficult and difficult things impossible. I do my very best to avoid bureaucracy here; its like stepping back in time.

    1. And the ‘frustrating’ thing of it all is that she (the woman at the LTO) told me this as if it were a ‘good thing’, allowing my to drive both a car AND a bike. Thanks for the heads-up. As it works out though I won’t be getting a motorcycle and am saving up for a mini-truck. It’ll be a little safer and allow me to get larger items from the town for home fix-up projects. As I mentioned in my recent article, dealing with the bureaucratic here (or anywhere) is one of my least favorite things to do. It’s just never simple.

    2. Another thing, speaking of the LTO.. when they say things like, “We can’t do both an auto and motorcycle license at the same time.”… my first question is, “Why not??” I mean, it doesn’t violate the laws of physics. It’s not an inconceivable concept to do both at the same time. The requirements are equal. But we all know that answer to this question; To charge more fines for a return trip to do a separate transaction. Uggh.

    3. And the ‘frustrating’ thing of it all is that she (the woman at the LTO) told me this as if it were a ‘good thing’, allowing my to drive both a car AND a bike. Thanks for the heads-up. As it works out though I won’t be getting a motorcycle and am saving up for a mini-truck. It’ll be a little safer and allow me to get larger items from the town for home fix-up projects. As I mentioned in my recent article, dealing with the bureaucratic here (or anywhere) is one of my least favorite things to do. It’s just never simple.

    4. Another thing, speaking of the LTO.. when they say things like, “We can’t do both an auto and motorcycle license at the same time.”… my first question is, “Why not??” I mean, it doesn’t violate the laws of physics. It’s not an inconceivable concept to do both at the same time. The requirements are equal. But we all know that answer to this question; To charge more fines for a return trip to do a separate transaction. Uggh.

    5. Henry, I did have the impertinence to ask that woman. I believe her name is Rose and she decides whether or not she will let you process or die. I posed the question in rather a timid fashion, as I had no wish to antagonise such an important fixture. She looked at me with sheer disbelief! The laws of physics do not apply to this woman.

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