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Head-On with Mañana-Mañana

First time to Asia... i had finally made the move and torn myself away from all ties in UK, leaving behind the miserable drizzle, the mornings of scraping ice from the car windscreen and frost bitten fingers.

Never again would i be shivering cold waiting for a bus or when just popping out the front door to collect the milk.

It was rays of sunshine for me from now on. Yipeeee!!

I arrived in the paradise and sun-filled island of the Philippines in January 1981... I was in heaven, or so i thought. Little did i know that this would be the most challenging part of my life...

I had landed a position with a large Japanese construction company on a project involved in the construction of two, huge (40,000 cubic meter) LPG storage tanks.
The location was settled on the beautiful coastline of Batangas, 2 hours drive south of Manila.

I was to be the construction coordinator keeping all the 6 to 10 subcontractors in working sequence together.

My first assignment was to make sure core samples were collected in time for analysis so that the foundation design could be finalised.

I jumped into the jeep and drove to a small beach cove area where one of the sub contractors had set up the drilling rig.

As soon as i stepped onto the sand i encountered the mouth watering aroma of barbecued fish. The guys had caught their breakfast and were in they were just finishing feasting on the catch they had made earlier that morning.

I strolled up to the four of them and was greeted by 4 gleaming smiles. They were expecting me and offered me breakfast. I politely declined and let them know we needed to talk on the work progress and estimated completion time.

The leader unraveled a drawing showing the drilling progress and explained what depth of drilling they d reached so far.
I asked when he thought the final depth of drilling would be met and core sample extracted.
He simply answered that everything was okay and sample would soon be ready.

Mmmm... this was gonna be easy i thought. These guys seem to know what they are doing and are confident that the deadline will be met.

Little did i know that i was about to have my first lesson in a Filipino idiosyncrasy... one which would take me a decade to come to terms with.

I was about to learn the meaning of “Mañana- Mañana”

I left the men on the beach confident that when i returned that evening at 5pm the final core sample would be handed to me and my boss was gonna be so pleased.

At the due time of 5pm i arrived back at the beach.

Smoke was billowing from a fire with the 4 of them sat surrounding the fire in a circle.
They looked up as i approached and smiled...i am not sure why but i suddenly felt a short discomfort at that very moment but i shook it off.

The boss of the 4 walked over with something in his hand and as he drew nearer to me it became clear that what he had in his hand was a special wrench which had obviously broken.

"sorry boss' he murmured we haven't been able to do anything because this has broken.
"oh" i said .. "okay, what depth of drilling did you reach when this broke?"
He replied, "we didn't do any drilling as this was broken this morning"

I felt a bristle rising and with a curtness in my voice i said
"you mean this was broken when i was here this morning?"

The 4 of them grinned guiltily while one of them remarked..
"yes but we thought we could handle it"

I reeled back, shocked that they had not had the sense to inform me .. they had known that extra tools were available and that it would take me less than 1 hour to have a replacement to arrive.

I was nonplussed.
Why hadn't they told me? Was there a conspiracy going on to delay the project?

I left the beach both angry and confused.

I reported the whole story to my boss and waited for a berating but was surprised by his calmness and remark... "welcome to the Philippines, you have just experienced the ‘Mañana- Mañana’ attitude and reluctance of confrontation all in one go.”

From there i learned that those men had viewed me as the problem and when i left the problem had gone.

They justified their actions because rather than get a new tool (admitting defeat) they would try to fix the tool themselves. Their first priority being, to save face, NOT the progress of the project.


3 years later after a near nervous breakdown and a lot more lessens behind me i started to learn to work with these and many other Filipino idiosyncrasies.

In fact 10 years later i finally learned a great life lesson... that:

“Of MOST importance in any situation.. I MEAN- ANY SITUATION -is understanding the motives, desires and needs of whom you are dealing with... and even more important.. to put those needs, desires and motives ABOVE your own..


This mind set, if put into action will, (in seemingly a paradox) eventually lead the way to manifest exactly the desires or results that you want.

It was truly a LONG LIFE LESSON.

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