The Grey Chronicles


Happy Filipinos, Part I

Early this month, this year, TV and press reporters highlighted in their respective telecasts and articles that Filipinos are among the top ranked as the happiest people in this world. The following post traces the Filipinos’ happiness through 2005 to the present.

SWS Happiness for Life, July 1991 to June 2004In the Philippines, Social Weather Stations [SWS] conducted the World Values Survey [WVS] beginning July 9-27, 2001. The World Values Surveys analyze how changes in values and attitudes worldwide shape and through time, re-shape economic, political, and social life. It can be gleaned from the SWS surveys, see figure, that from 1991 to 2004, 80% of Filipinos have consistently claimed their happiness with life. In the 2001 World Values Survey, although 88% of Filipinos are Very Happy or Fairly Happy, the Philippines ranked 31st only slightly above the international average, 80%. SWS (2005) observed:

“The June 2004 proportion of happy Filipinos (79%) was the lowest since happiness reached a record low in March 2000. The question was first implemented in July 1991 and recorded the highest percentage of happy Filipinos in April 1996, the first WVS round conducted by SWS, where 92% said they were Very and Fairly Happy. Since then, the number of happy Filipinos fluctuated, until September 2001 when it started to decline slightly.”

Teodoro Benigno (Philippine Star, 2003) earlier asked: “Are they really happy?”

“… Filipinos are happy. They are resilient. They sing when they should weep. They make do with the little they have. They are presumably the smilingest people on earth. Watch them even in the slums. They warble and they dance and they play. And even in their rags, they are happier than the rich, wealthy and powerful Pinoys who inhabit suburbia, the exclusive, gated residences where they are walled off from the rest of the world. Where wine glasses tinkle, and clapped hands bring out dozens of domestic servants who do their every bidding. Venga!”

On 25 February 2005, the Office of the Press Secretary (2005) declared that “Filipinos are the happiest among Asians, and one among the happiest people in the world despite the many problems they have to face everyday.” This was later debunked by the same SWS (2005) article mentioned above, as “Using only the Very Happy responses, Philippines ranked 19th with 38%, second in Southeast Asia to Vietnam (49%)”.

Ranking 78th on the 2006 World Map of Happiness (Manila Standard, 2006) and 17th in the New Economic Foundation’s [NEF] Happy Planet Index (2006) with 6.4 (8.2 is reasonable ideal) for Life Satisfaction, 70.4 (82.0) for Life Expectancy and 1.2 (1.5) for Environmental Footprint, Filipinos were also the seventh most patriotic in the world in 2006.

Antonio C. Abaya (2006) observed that NEF’s Happy Planet Index adjudged Vanuatu as the happiest people on earth, followed by the people of Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica and Panama. Furthermore, Abaya pointed out:

“People are generally happy [in Vanuatu] because they are very satisfied with very little. This is not a consumer-driven society. Life here is about community and family and goodwill to other people. It’s a place where you don’t worry too much. … And why Colombia in second place? The no. 1 producer and trafficker of illegal cocaine, the murder and kidnap capital of the world, is the second-happiest country in the world? What planet are they talking about here? This is such an incredible list, being 17th in it is no great honor at all. ”

For Abaya, a more credible index of happiness would be the University of Leicester’s World Map of Happiness where good health care, a higher gross domestic product, and access to education were considered the most important criteria. According to which the happiest countries are: Denmark (1), Switzerland (2), Austria (3), Iceland (4), Bahamas (5), Finland (6), Sweden (7), Bhutan (8), Brunei (9) and Canada (10). The Philippines was 78th. A blogger (2006) piped in: “These wildly differing results can be partly explained by methodological differences. … Filipinos’ happy disposition might be both a form of coping and a consequence of having less options. I read somewhere that having more choices can make people less happy.”

Meanwhile, Starmometer (2006) reported that the National Opinion Research Center [NORC] at the University of Chicago surveyed 34 democracies and ranked USA as the world’s most patriotic country while the Philippines, ranked 7th, was the only Asian country in the top 10. People rated how proud they were of their countries in 10 areas such as sports, history, economy, politics, social security, the way their democracy works, science and technology, arts and literature, military and fair treatment of all groups in society. Ex-colonies like the Philippines and newer nations were more likely to rank high on the list, while Western European, East Asian and former Socialist countries ranked near the bottom.

Early in 2007, Survey Research Hong Kong released its Asia-wide happiness survey and showed that despite poverty, 94% of Filipinos are more contented with their lives than other Asians. Japan, Asia’s highest per capita income of US $38,980 and over five times more than that of Filipinos, yet almost a third of the Japanese admitted to being “generally miserable,”. Dr. Ly Sycip, chairperson of the UP Department of Psychology, explained some reasons: Filipinos draw a lot of their strength from family and other social relationships, high on interpersonal bonds or camaraderie; cultural systems like bahala na (whatever happens) and padrino (patronage) are coping mechanisms for Filipinos to get fulfillment in life; Filipinos look toward God to help them come by; by nature a jovial and buoyant people; with lower expectations, i.e., not very materialistic, very simple things will make Filipinos happy (Money Saver, 2007).

An October 2007 study, conducted by the National Statistical Coordination Board [NSCB], shown that Filipinos ranked family as the most important source of happiness, giving it a score of 9.45 on a scale of 1 to 10. Health came next, with a score of 8.95, while religion ranked third with 8.59. Other important sources of happiness include friends (8.57), financial security (8.3), education (8.25), love life (8.2), and work (7.94) (DWS, 2007).

Moreover, a 2007 joint study by AXA Asia Life and research company Taylor Nelson Sofres, AXA Life Outlook Index (2007), also stated that Filipinos, with a score of 85%, are the second happiest and most optimistic people in Asia having a positive outlook on life in general. India scored 87.2% for the first place. Following the Philippines was China, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. The study tried to measure how satisfied people are at present, and how optimistic they are for the next 12 months and five years about their career, family, health and retirement planning. The study showed that Filipinos are relatively happy about their careers and families but are most optimistic about their health, even though they currently have one of the lowest levels of self-purchased medical insurance and company medical insurance (GMANews.TV, 2007). Map of World Happiness

Andrew White’s research (2007) published the first time a map of global happiness based on subjective well being [SWB]. He explained:

“The map itself mirrors other projection of poverty and GDP. This data on SWB was compared with data on access to education (UNESCO, 2005), health (United Nations, 2005), and poverty (CIA, 2006). It was found that SWB correlated most strongly with health (.7) closely followed by wealth (.6) and access to basic education (.6). This adds to the evidence that from a global perspective the biggest causes of SWB are poverty and associated variables.”


Abaya, Antonio C. (2006). Happiness. Manila: Manila Standard Today, 01 August 2006. back to text

Arcibal, Cheryl (2007). Filipinos 2nd happiest people in Asia – study. GMANews.TV, 28 November 2007. back to text

AXA Asia Pacific (2007). AXA Asia Life Outlook Index. AXA Asia Pacific, 04 October 2007. back to text

Benigno, Teodoro C. (2003). Understanding the Filipino, Here’s The Score. Manila: Philippine Star, quoted by Sol Jose Vanzi for Philippine Headline News Online, 24 December 2003. back to text

Dance With Shadows (2007). Family, health, religion make Filipinos most happy. Dance With Shadows, 11 October, 2007. back to text

Labucay, Iremae D. (2005). Happiness in the Philippines Ranks Only Slightly Above Average in the World Values Survey. Manila: Social Weather Stations, 14 March 2005. back to text

Manila Standard (2006). Danes are happiest; Filipinos rank 78th. Manila: Manila Standard Today, 29 July 2006. back to text

Marks, N., Andrew Simms, Sam Thompson and Saamah Abdallah (2006). The (un)Happy Planet Index. London: New Economics Foundation [NEF], 2006. p. 55. back to text

Money Saver Magazine (2007). Why Are Filipinos Happier?, Money Saver Magazine. 2007. back to text

Office of the Press Secreatry [OPS] (2005). Filipinos are among the world’s happiest people — Survey. Manila: Office of the Press Secretary, 23 February 2005. back to text

Starmometer (2006). Filipinos are 7th Most Patriotic in the World. Starmometer, 29 June 2006. back to text

Torn and Frayed (2006). How happy are Filipinos?. Torn and Frayed in Manila, 30 July 2006. back to text

White, Andrew (2007). A Global Projection of Subjective Well-being: A Challenge To Positive Psychology?, Psychtalk. Vol. 56. University of Leicester. pp. 17-20. back to text

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 LicenseDisclaimer: The posts on this site do not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions; and unless otherwise expressly stated, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: