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Philippine Experiments With Daylight Saving Time

Why do I have these hazy images inside my head of getting up from my bed in the dead of the night with the utmost reluctance, stumbling almost drunkenly to the bathroom to do my toilet and brave the chilly water that would inevitably spurt from the shower head and then hastily get dressed to be on the road to catch a bus to take me to Manila for another week of college?

While doing my zombie routine, I would be cursing whoever was stupid enough to implement DST in the Philippines. That will be Daylight Saving Time; and the younger of the readers will have absolutely no idea what it is or what it was like.

I just got back from Google, having gotten tired of looking for anything that will substantiate the hazy memories that I carry inside my head. If I was going to Manila for the week, then I must have been still in college. If I was still in college, then my first encounter with DST must have been during the Marcos era.

However, the few documents that I came across mentioned that DST was used experimentally during the presidencies of Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos.

Bummer. On the other hand, I am reasonably certain that I was getting up to go to Manila for school. Back then, it was normal for me to squeeze the weekend for every drop it could give and preferred to get up at dawn every Monday even when I had eight o’clock classes. That meant getting up at four and being on the road half an hour later – an hour at the most – to catch my bus.

What I recall being particularly bitter about was – when DST kicked in and clocks were brought back an hour earlier – although the clock on the wall said 4 o’clock when I got up, my whole body knew that it was really still 3 o’clock. The first few days of DST were always the hardest; and each time I always felt like hollering at any clock on the wall that I came across, “You lying bastard!”

If I am not so sure about DST being implemented during the Marcos era, I am dead certain that it was during the Cory Aquino era. I was still with Student Discipline and dreaded the first couple of weeks of DST. I mean, it was normal for the sleepyheads to be late for school during Standard Time; how much more on DST?

I would run out of Admit Passes – those printed slips of paper that told the Homeroom Advisers that the sleepyhead had passed by Discipline – and sometimes scribble passes on whatever pieces of paper I could get my hands on. Sometimes I would tear pieces of the Daily Bulletin into four parts and write on these.

Of course, when Standard Time was restored months later, it would be exactly the opposite. Everyone would be in school an hour earlier than necessary and looking stupid from sheer lack of anything to do. Students would actually be relieved to finally hear the morning bell signalling the start of the Homeroom Period.

Back to DST, apart from the sheer misery of adjusting to it, there was the utter curiosity of going home at the end of the day to catch the primetime shows with the sun still not having set down the western horizons. Of course, everyone eventually got used to it to the point when DST began to feel like Standard Time.

From the first time I had had to deal with DST, I always felt that it was just the stupidest thing ever conceived for the Philippines! Whatever merits it has are best suited to countries in the temperate zone, when the discrepancy between daytime and nighttime during the fall-winter months is quite considerable. We here in the Philippines are, on the other hand, a stone’s throw away from the equator; and the gap between daytime and nighttime even when it is winter in the temperate zone is never really significant.

Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, is credited by some quarters as the one who first broached the idea of DST. When he was still serving as US ambassador to France, he realized that by the time that he got up, the sun had already risen. From this realization, he inferred the savings that could be had by making full use of the sunlight to help a nation’s economy.

It was not until World War I that the idea became official policy for a state. Germany, fighting a losing war against the Triple Entente in World War I, made DST mandatory because of the possible savings from the use of coal that could be had by pegging the clock an hour earlier during the summer months. The United States also made DST mandatory during World War II.

There currently are over 70 countries implementing DST. Generally, on the second Sunday of March, the clock is pegged back one hour to kick off DST. The idea is to make the fullest use of sunlight while there is so much more of it; and particularly towards the evening. Things people will otherwise be doing using electricity they will be able to do using natural light from the sun.

By November, everyone reverts back to Standard Time. Although, when you come to think about it, whatever savings are earned during the summer months are probably just offset by the inevitable rise of enery costs when the winter sets in.

To my mind, that was exactly the case here in the Philippines when we were experimenting with it. Whatever savings we had in the evenings were actually offset by having to turn the lights on, anyway, at dawn. Although the horizons were already starting to light up, it was still always frigging dark to do anything inside the house!

Although the Ramos presidency still experimented with DST as one of the solutions to deal with an energy crisis that was inherited from the Cory Aquino government, thankfully the whole sorry affair has not been implemented since. The Philippines is now listed among the countries that do not implement DST.

Strange as it may seem, but DST still has an indirect effect on my life. I no longer have to get up earlier in the mornings just to be able to go to work; but since British Standard Time returns in November, I have to stay up an hour longer just to be able to watch my favourite club play its English Premiership matches. The EPL live matches will now commence at 11 o’clock till March; so in a manner of speaking, I have not completely escaped the effects of DST.

Just to set the record straight, can anyone recall if DST – indeed – was implemented during the Marcos era? If you are less than forty, you are not even allowed to reply.

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