The Grey Chronicles


Happy Filipinos, Part II

This continues yesterday’s post tracing the Filipinos’ happiness through 2005 to the present. In 2005, Filipinos ranked 31st in the World Values Survey. It was 78th on the University of Leicester’s 2006 World Map of Happiness; 17th in the New Economic Foundation’s [NEF] Happy Planet Index and the seventh most patriotic people among 34 countries in the world in 2006 based on a research by the University of Chicago. The AXA Life Outlook Index stated that the Filipinos were the second happiest with a score of 85% and most optimistic people in Asia in 2007; while Survey Research Hong Kong showed in its its Asia-wide happiness survey that despite poverty, 94% of Filipinos were more contented with their lives than other Asians.

The University of Michigan [U-M] Institute for Social Research’s study (2008) found that people in most countries around the world were happier these days. Data from representative national surveys conducted from 1981 to 2007 showed the happiness index rose in an overwhelming majority of nations studied. U-M political scientist Ronald Inglehart, who directs the World Values Surveys stated:

“The events of the past 25 years have brought a growing sense of freedom that seems to be even more important than economic development in contributing to rising happiness. Moreover, the most effective way to maximize happiness seems to change with rising levels of economic development. In subsistence-level societies, happiness is closely linked with in-group solidarity, religiosity and national pride. At higher levels of economic security, free choice has the largest impact on happiness.”

The AXA Life Outlook Index (2009), a regional study developed to identify Asian consumers’ current and projected level of confidence, revealed that Filipinos held the most optimistic view toward life, with an index of 84.0, marginally lower than 85.0 in 2007. With regional average index of 69.0 for eight Asian markets: Singapore (58.1), China (66.9) and Thailand (66.1), the Index measures four core aspects of life — Career, Family, Health and Retirement, and uses the Structural Equation Model (SEM), a sophisticated statistical technique, to produce an overall Life Outlook Index. It was also conducted to understand the extent in which mass affluent Asians are prepared and ready to face uncertainties in their pursuit of life goals.

In May 2008, Social Weather Stations (2008) research found that four out of every five Filipinos were happy, and this level of happiness had remained relatively high over the past fifteen years. Poor Filipinos were only marginally less happy than average. However, seven million Filipino families considered themselves to be poor in terms of food. Mahar Mangahas (2008) reacted to this SWS research, saying:

“It is more reasonable to call hunger a cause of unhappiness than the other way around” than general poverty does. “One should be thankful that most of the poor, and even most of the hungry, still find a basis for happiness. This tendency is not peculiar to Filipinos.”

Near the end of 2008, a Pulse Asia survey showed that Filipinos disagreed with the view that the Philippines is not hopeless and 54% ruled out immigration even if given the opportunity (Philippine Star, 2008). Malacañang reacted that these results show that most Filipinos remained nationalistic in spite of the impacts of the global financial crisis and the endless criticisms against the government. Probably, Filipinos are always complaining, but they also are always smiling.

Ruut Veenhoven (2009) ranked how much people enjoy their life-as-a-whole on scale 0 to 10, and found that the Philippines scored in middle range at 6.3 ranking 54 to 55 for the years 2000 to 2008. China’s score and rank were respectively the same as with the Philippines’.

In the most recent happiness survey, Happy Planet Index 2.0 (2009), published by New Economics Foundation [NEF], the Philippines ranked 14th. This time around the scores were compared to 2050 targets of 87.0 for Life Expectancy, 80.0 for Life Satisfaction and 1.7 for Environmental Footprint. Based on improved data for 143 countries around the world — representing 99% of the world’s population, the results shows that globally we are still far from achieving good lives within the Earth’s finite resource limits.

Philippines scored 5.5 for Life Satisfaction, 71.0 for Life Expectancy and 0.9 for Environmental Footprint. Costa Rica grabbed the top spot. Moreover, The Philippines scored better than its neighboring countries like China (20th), Indonesia (16th), and Malaysia (33rd). It is also the only Asian country that ranked in the survey’s top 20 happiest countries, besides Vietnam (5th).

The New Economics Foundation clarifies:

“The Happy Planet Index [HPI] is not an indicator of the happiest country on the planet, or the best place to live. Nor does it indicate the most developed country in the traditional sense, or the most environmentally friendly. Instead, the HPI combines all of these providing a method of comparing countries’ progress towards the goal of providing long-term well-being for all without exceeding the limits of equitable resource consumption.”

The Search for the Happiest Pinoy!Be that as it may, on 05 May 2009, Cebuana Lhuillier Insurance Solutions [CLIS] launched The Search for the Happiest Pinoy! whereby a P200,000 tax-free cash prize awaits the Filipino who is constantly cheerful, optimistic, has the ability to rise above life’s challenges, and has a positive impact on other people’s lives. The campaign will run from May 5 to December 31, 2009. The winners will be announced in January 2010 (Good News Pilipinas, 2009).

Happiness is only a state of mind. It varies from one individual to another and even from culture to culture. Still, every Filipino has a smile on his face knowing that his own happy composure landed the country among the top 20 in the HPI.

Most, if not all, just do not care much about the economy, politics, or way of life. Filipinos put most everything to faith: faith in God (or gods) to deal what what mere mortals cannot do—eradicating the evils of society or punishing those who wronged us to eternal damnation; faith in the government to deal with what simple citizens are seemingly incapable of doing ourselves—even if the government is perceived to be corrupt, perpetuating, power-hungry or simply insensitive to our basic needs, great desires, or wishful thinking; faith in our interpersonal relationships, both family and social circles, to help fulfill our small and big favors; and a blind faith that everything will just fall into place when the right time and circumstance come.

With a strong belief that bahala na will take care of whatever issues Filipinos can’t or won’t deal with ourselves, and never truly acquired the Western idea of materialism, there’s more time to enjoy the little things in life. Life becomes a big social event—from the office, public gatherings, meetings, even elections. We laugh through our pain, after a calamity. Filipinos make do with what they have. Teodoro Benigno (Philippine Star, 2003) wrote: “We are a nation more obsessed with form rather than substance. … We do the same thing again and again. We never learn.” How many EDSA revolutions would it take us to learn? Sometimes, our ’galit“ is soon forgotten.

Whatever other peoples and the foreign media, or even our own, call us: the “sick man of Asia”, a “basket case”, a “shattered culture”, or “pitiful Filipinos”; Filipinos, even though poor, hungry, complain a lot, accept their fate, yet will remain happy because we value happiness more than anything else. Be happy! Sometimes, everything is not what it seems.


Abdallah, Saamah; Sam Thompson, Juliet Michaelson, Nic Marks and Nicola Steuer (2009). The (un)Happy Planet Index 2.0. London: New Economics Foundation [NEF], July 2009. p. 64. back to text

AXA Life (2009). Regional study by AXA reveals Singaporeans are least optimistic in life outlook. Singapore: AXA Life Insurance Singapore Pte Ltd., 2 April 2009. 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

Cebuana Lhuillier Insurance Solutions [CLIS] (2009). Search is on for the Happiest Pinoy!. Good News Pilipinas, 05 May 2009. back to text

Flores, Helen (2008). Most Pinoys say RP not hopeless, won’t migrate – poll. Manila: The Philippine Star, 20 December 2008. back to text

Mangahas, Mahar (2008). Happiness versus unhappiness. Philippine Daily Inquirer, 07 June 2008. back to text

Social Weather Stations [SWS](2008). First Quarter 2008 Survey. Manila: Social Weather Stations, 19 May 2008. back to text

University of Michigan (2009). Happiness is rising around the world: U-M study. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, 30 June 2008. back to text

Veenhoven, Ruut (2009). Average Happiness in 145 Nations 2000-2008, World Database of Happiness, Rank Report 2009-1a. Erasmus University Rotterdam: World Database of Happiness, Accessed 22 February 2009. 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.


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