One thing almost every Filipino and foreign visitor to the Philippines would find hard to deny is the contagious happiness Filipinos have. The cheer all around is almost as bright as the tropical sun, for the lack of a cornier term.
So why are Filipinos so damn happy?
According to the Gallup’s Positive Experience Index, Philippines is among the happiest countries in the world for the last few years, having ranked as high as 4th in 2013. Aimed to measure general happiness, this Index focuses mainly on how many happy experiences citizens encounter through their daily lives. It asked about how many times they’ve laughed, smiled, felt loved and respected regularly. I won’t go into any more metrics or numbers, but it also concluded that Philippines’ rating was even higher than the world average in 2015.
This is not just something you discover through statistics, like I had said before many many people can attest to this fact. Filipinos are bright and happy, which can be confusing to some since as a country, Philippines is still considered ‘developing’, with terribly high rates of crime, deaths and poverty. So the line of questioning is this, how can a people be so happy despite facing so many adversities? Adversities that many other nations don’t have to deal with to such a high extent?
As a Filipina, what I can offer you is my answer based on my identity. Based on people I’ve encountered of different cultures and their identities as I saw them.
Filipinos know life is difficult, but they actively try to shift their attention and mood to happier states.
We do this through family. Filipinos are very family-oriented people and they often try to spend as much of their free time as possible with family and friends, socialising and having large gatherings, telling stories and jokes. We drink together. And the best of all- we sing. They sing old love songs on the karaoke that everyone loves for a sappy, happy time.
We do this through food. Every Filipino knows that a full stomach guarantees a smile and throughout their lives, we strive to make the most delicious (though not always the healthiest), mouth-watering foods and desserts for each other. It is hard to go home from visiting a Filipino friend or a gathering without bringing home free food.
We do this through comedy. One thing you would notice about the Filipino media is that it is always full of either drama or laughter. There are whole shows dedicated to gags, stand-ups and parodies, some of which are my favourite Filipino shows of all time. These shows, like Bubble Gang, Eat Bulaga and Wow Mali are on all the time. Even talk shows are always spun to have a flavour of humour, such as Gandang Gabi Vice and many others. During afternoons there are also sing-and-dance shows with plenty of lively and funky performances, such as ASAP.
You may think Filipinos are somewhat corny with their humour but it is the fact that it takes very little of it to make them smile that is admirable. We are easy to please and find amusement in so many things. We find happiness in the company of loved ones and friends more than most people (Filipinos are veeeery social, trust me, ask anyone who knows one).
At the same time, Filipinos are also quite desensitised when it comes to tragedies.
Murders, crimes related to drugs and violence in general are common in the country- everyone knows it. We know that letting that linger in our minds will do nothing but eat away positivity. In the grand scheme of things, Filipinos know nothing much will change tomorrow, they can only change the way they look and react to events in their daily lives.
Sometimes I do think it is that danger that can also play as a factor in happiness. What if something happens and tomorrow they suffer through a tragedy? A crime? Then they may as well be happy now and make the most of what they have before it’s all gone.
Living in Australia for many years now, roughly half my life, these factors are very minimal in Australian living. The rocketing rates of crime. A majority of the population being in poverty. A media system that focuses more on happiness and positivity. Do they a country’s positivity make? I think that warrants a whole other post on its own.
To note, in the last five years, Gallup’s Positive Experience Index has always ranked Philippines much higher than Australia, a ‘first-world’ developed country with much better economic conditions.
Just think about that. Because that thought keeps lingering on my mind.
Why do you think Filipinos are so happy? What are your views and experiences of happiness in different countries?