Summary Inefficient case finding is an important stumbling block to successful control of tuberculosis (TB). Multiple health seeking may account for delayed case finding. Health-seeking behaviour, health seeking delay, perceived causes, and perceived quality of care related to TB were studied in interviews with 319 sputum smear-positive TB patients. The patients were treated in 22 governmental health centres of Malabon, a municipality of Metro Manila, Philippines. Only 29% of the respondents had gone first to a health centre after onset of TB-related symptoms, and more than half (53%) had initially consulted a private doctor. A chest X-ray was obtained for nearly everyone (97%). Two thirds of the patients (66%) had received a prescription for drugs, and 29% had purchased and taken anti-TB drugs for at least three weeks before they came to a governmental health centre. Concerning community interactions, 36% said they knew at least one person who had been treated for TB without success. The health seeking delay after symptom onset was relatively short – 64% of the respondents said they went to a health facility within 1 month. Case studies illustrate the rationale for health seeking and explain delayed initiation of appropriate treatment for many patients. Findings underscore the need for and indicate approaches to health communication for improved control of TB. Our findings from interview narratives also suggest that improved interpersonal skills of health centre staff and co-ordination between the private doctors and the health centres may substantially improve services for TB patients.