Making Excuses in the Philippines

Business Cultural Notes

As in most Asian cultures, Filipinos find it hard to say “no” to invitations, requests for favors, etc. Saving one’s face is quite important, and the only way to save himself from embarrassment is to come up with alibis or excuses. This is also true in situations when one has to come up with explanations for why he or she is late or unable to come to appointments or commitments. Dahilan is the Tagalog word for excuse, and nagdadahilan is the term for someone making up an alibi or excuse.

The most common excuse that serves as an alibi is physical illness, either one’s own or a member of his immediate family. Other excuses include traffic jam, inability to wake up early, vehicular accident, etc. While it is common to accept these superficial alibis, Filipinos generally become more suspicious if these same excuses come up more often and they become lame alibis. One is then considered as having an incurable illness called tamaditis (from tamad, or lazy), or suffering from chronic katam (from katamaran, laziness).

The list of phrases below are used to explain absences and are used as appropriate excuses in the following given situations:

A.  You failed to attend a friend’s birthday party.

  1. May sakit ang anak ko. (My child is sick.)
  2. May bisita kami sa bahay. (We have visitors at home.)
  3. May lagnat ako. (I have a fever.)

B.  You failed to call you parents last night/one evening.

  1. May dayt ako. (I have a date.)
  2. May iksamen ako bukas. (I have an exam tomorrow.)
  3. May lagnat ako. (I have a fever)
  4. Napagod ako sa trabaho. ( I was tired from working.)
  5. Natulog ako ng maaga. (I went to bed early)

C.  You did not go to work

  1. May sakit ako. (I am sick)
  2. May sakit ang nanay/tatay ko. (My parents are sick)
  3. Umuwi ako sa bahay ng nanay at tatay ko. ( I went back home.)
  4. May sipon at ubo ako. ( I have a cold and cough.)

Filipinos are also not known for punctuality.  In general, most Filipinos are able to find some excuses for being late: puyat (lacked sleep), pagod (tired), na-traffic (got caught in the traffic), or simply naaksidente (had an accident along the way). But most Filipinos have somehow come up with a way to humor their being late by asking if their scheduled appointment is Filipino time or not. By Filipino time, it means that guests or those with appointments will come at least 30 minutes to an hour late from the appointed time. Much of this lack of punctuality is attributed by some to the “laidback” attitude of many Filipinos about time. 

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