Array
Arts & Culture

The Phrase 'Mabilis Pa sa Alas Kwatro' Came From an Old Manila Ice Plant's Daily Siren

"Mabilis pa sa alas kwatro" dates back to the 1900s.

Shares
Photography: Public Domain

 

Ikaw talaga, hindi ka mautusan, pero pagdating sa lakwatsa, mabilis ka pa sa alas kwatro!”

(“You can’t be relied on with chores, but when it comes to gallivanting, you’re faster than four o’clock!”)

You’ve probably heard the phrase “mabilis pa sa alas kwatro” when someone was being scolded for wanting to leave quickly in pursuit of some kind of leisure. The phrase actually dates back to the American colonial era in the Philippines and referred to the four o’clock siren of the Insular Ice Plant in Manila.

According to historian Ambeth Ocampo, the ice plant sounded three times every day: At seven o’clock to signal the start of work, at 12 noon to signal lunch break, and at four o’clock to signal the end of the day’s work.

At the time, the ice plant’s four o’clock siren became an institution that announced not only the end of the day for the plant’s workers but for the rest of Manila. Ocampo explains the city, at that time, was relatively quieter, and the blaring siren would be heard throughout the city signaling the end of the workday.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

It so happened that unscrupulous workers at the time would already queue up for the exit minutes before the four o’clock chimed. Their American superiors observed this, noting, “These Filipinos are faster than the four o’clock siren!”

CONTINUE READING BELOW
Recommended Videos

The phrase caught on and eventually passed into Filipino lingo. These days, “Mabilis pa sa alas kwatro” is used to reprehend someone who neglects responsibilities but shows eagerness in the pursuit of pleasures.

The Ice Plant That Birthed ‘Mabilis pa sa Alas Kwatro’

The Insular Ice and Cold Storage Plant or simply Insular Ice Plant was an ice production and storage facility in Manila, Philippines. It was built in 1902, a mere four years after the Philippine Revolution. At the time, it was considered a state-of-the-art facility. The colonial government in Manila had to ask the U.S. Congress to approve its construction for the sake of “comfort supplies” deemed essential to the American troops: cold beverages.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

According to researcher Marlyne Sahakian, the ice plant was one of the first permanent structures built in the Philippines by the Americans. It was designed by Edgar K. Bourne following the Mission-Revival architectural style at the time.

Its 10-storey smokestack became Manila’s most prominent landmark. Sadly, it was destroyed in World War II, leaving only the smokestack. The ruins were left untouched until the 1980s when it was removed by the government to give way for the construction of the Light Rail Transit.

 

* * *

Have you recently spruced up your room or renovated your home? We'd definitely love to see the result! Send clear photos (with your full name, city address, and accompanying kuwento) to [email protected] with the subject "DIY Makeover" and we may just feature your DIY project!

Real Living is now on Quento! Click here to download the app on Android and IOS, and enjoy more articles and videos from us and your other favorite websites!

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

* * *

 

This story originally appeared on Esquiremag.ph.

* Minor edits have been made by the Realliving.com.ph editors.

More on Realliving.com.ph

Shares

Read more stories about

Latest Stories

Andrea Torres Talks About Her Life at Home

She's also trying to be a plantita!

Gruppo Mobili’s Florence Ko Knighted by Italian Government

Ko is now a Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy.

IKEA Philippines is Looking for Part-Timers!

This may be the job opportunity you've been waiting for.

A Makeover for a K-Pop Fan’s 1-Bedroom Unit in Taguig

Storage space is a must for any collector!

5 Advantages of Going for a Small Loft-Type House Design

Enjoy the benefits of having a versatile space you can personalize according to your needs

Designers Speak About the Changing Need for Different Home Spaces During the Pandemic

Ivy and Cynthia Almario share how the design industry is faring during the pandemic, and how their clients' needs have changed.
Load More Stories