Wake Up, Philippines!

Funny Face

Posted in Facts and Figures, Happiness, Surveys by Erineus on February 11, 2009

There are various benefits to being poor and happy. Not in monetary terms, or in the form of material possessions. The benefits are more meaningful and the best part is that many rich people don’t even know what they’re missing.

Majority of people in the Philippines is poor and happy. (If majority of the population is unhappy, we will be in big trouble). A small percentage is considered rich and quite a number of them are unhappy, (Many rich people are never happy with what they have and they always want more).

According to a US-government-funded World Values Survey, the Philippines ranked 38th in terms of happiness, trailing other Southeast Asian nations such as Thailand (27), Singapore (31), Malaysia (34), and Vietnam (36). “Denmark is the happiest country in the world in our ratings,” said Ronald Inglehart, a political scientist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, who directed the study. “Denmark is prosperous — not the richest country in the world but it is prosperous.”

The ranking is not important now, but the timing is crucial. If the survey were made after Manny Pacquiao clobbered David Diaz to win the Lightweight Championship of the world title a few weeks ago, the results would be different. When the referee raised Pacquiao’s hand in victory, what country was the happiest in the world? The Philippines would have won hands down.

How can researchers from a rich country like the United States make a survey about happiness in a poor country like the Philippines? They equate happiness with prosperity. Many poor Filipinos (majority live in the rural areas) equate happiness with simple things such as having a good meal after a hard day of work in the rice paddies or later singing My Way in a karaoke bar.

The researchers asked the following questions in a survey of 350,000 people worldwide: a) Taking all things together, would you say you are very happy, rather happy, not very happy, not at all happy; b) All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?

If the survey were made after Pacquiao’s victory, the unanimous answer of Filipinos, rich and poor alike, would be “very happy” and “very satisfied.” If you ask the poor farmer after he has eaten his meal or after he has acknowledged the applause of people in the bar for sounding like Frank Sinatra in singing My Way, his answer would still be “very happy” and “very satisfied.”

Being poor and happy is a way of life in rural communities. Poor people lead quiet lives and they are grateful and happy for whatever blessings come their way.

In fact, many Filipinos would prefer being poor and happy to being rich and miserable. People in the first category put emphasis on happy, and it doesn’t matter that they are poor. Those in the second category may flaunt their riches, but they are often miserable. Being poor and happy is bliss. The taxman will not touch you. Thieves will not bother to surprise you with a visit during the night. Because you have nothing to lose, you have no fear.

But the rich and miserable are scared and restless. They hire bodyguards for protection and security guards watch over their property. They fear the taxman, and some run away when they see a beggar coming. Their movements are limited. They are lonely and isolated.

Mention the word happiness and many people would think of things that will make them happy, or things that will make them sad. They will not think of the word as a term to describe their existence. “If the wife is happy, then I’m happy,” said a sleepy-eyed husband. He said he tried to slip in after a long night out with friends, but the wife was waiting. He said they had a long talk (Read: The wife did all the talking).

If you ask Filipinos: Would you consider yourself a happy person? Many would hesitate before answering “yes” or “no.” Others will say “depends” or shoot back with “why” and “who’s asking.”

It is also possible many people will not give an honest answer. If you ask, “What is your happiness level?” You would get a shrug. Besides, would you base your answer on your material possessions, physical attributes, spiritual attitude, hopes, dreams and aspirations? What about people who smile a lot? Does it mean they are happy? Well, smiles are misleading. In fact, many smiles are fake. Some people smile only during a pictorial because the photographer barks “everybody say cheese.”

Many happy people I know even suppress their smile because they have several front teeth missing. When they laugh they cover their mouths with their hands. When they put their hands down, the smile looks like a sneer.

Small happiness. Big happiness. Can you be totally happy? People cannot tell the difference. When you look into the mirror, do you smile? If you do, don’t let the wife catch you grinning, or you hear her say: “I’m glad you realize, at last, that you have a funny face.”


Author: Joel P. Palacios
Source: Manila Times Internet Edition
Date: July 11, 2008
Picture: Flickr