The great thing about British time is that it is on time. Sharp. On the dot. In short it’s punctual.
I validated that last Saturday, when I performed for the British School of Manila in Global City during its annual fair. The performance was a lesson in respecting time.
As you well know, in the Philippines nothing starts on time. Meetings, dates, plane flights, MRT trips, events and parties—they all begin and end late.
So working with people whose respect for time is a cultural thing was a whiff of a cold breeze in this blistering summer.
My team and I finished our lunch party at 2PM last Saturday and rushed to the British school to prepare well ahead of time of our 5PM show. We came upon a stage on one side of a football field.
Yes, folks, I was to perform in an open field under the scorching summer sun. It’s so hot in this time of the year that I know some magicians in the Philippines had forsworn performing outdoor.
But I play lots of tennis almost every day. I play some of my games at 12 noon without withering like a spoiled ripe mango. A 5PM sun for me would be as cool as opening the refrigerator door.
The crowd was building up already at around 3PM. Everybody was speaking English English, not American English. Unfamiliar with the British accent, I had to strain my ears to catch the meaning of what people were saying. I supposed they also strained their ears to understand my Bisaya-accented English and evened things up.
The gig was not my ideal gig. Apart from the searing heat of the sun, there were lots of activities going on at the same time—bouncy castle, game booths, photo booths, soak the teacher booth, water games. Oh, I saw several students running around and throwing pies at each other. The scene was a tableau of fun and frolic, one that hardly encouraged confidence in me as a performer.
I looked up the program on the bulletin board and saw that the magic performance was scheduled at 5:15PM, not 5PM.
A band was playing non-stop music on the stand but nobody was announcing the magic show. The MC announced lots of stuff but did not mention anything about the magic show.
By 5PM I changed into my magician outfit and told my assistants to load up the props.
I glanced at my watch. It was 5:09PM. Still no announcement over the PA system about the magic show. I began to doubt I would be able to start at 5:15PM.
The next time I checked my watch it was at 5:13PM. Lo and behold, from the throng of people roaming around the ground, an official looking gentleman, a big ID card slung around his neck, appeared before me. He introduced himself as the program director. He wanted to know if we would be ready to go onstage in two minutes.
Yes, we would, I said. All we need to do was bring our stuff on stage and we’re ready to go.
What do you know. At exactly 5:15PM, the MC announced my name. I started my show exactly at the hour and minute the schedule on the bulletin board said it would.
The crowd gathered in front of the stage. When I began dropping laugh lines, the audience laughed. I was thrilled the English English speaking people understood my Bisaya-accented English.
For a magician in the Philippines like me long harried by the national norm of casual indifference toward time, starting and finishing a show exactly on schedule was an awesome experience.
- Speak English Clearly! (apprendreneg.wordpress.com)
- Easter Sunday in Resorts World Manila (innermagicclub.wordpress.com)