It shouldn’t surprise us anymore that every year, Filipinos are ranked among the happiest people in the world and are ever hopeful that the coming year would be better than the previous one. Despite the poverty around them, and the endless disasters and tragedies that wreak havoc in their lives year in and year out, the Filipinos remain among the happiest and most optimistic people in the world.
Pinoys are happy, hopeful people
Nearly every year, a Gallup worldwide survey shows that the Filipinos are in the top 10 happiest people on earth, while surveys by both Pulse Asia and the Social Weather Station consistently show that more than 90 percent of Filipinos are optimistic that the coming year would be better than the previous one.
The annual Gallup poll asks about 1,000 people in each of 148 countries if in the past year, they were well-rested, had been treated with respect, smiled or laughed a lot, learned or did something interesting and felt feelings of enjoyment the previous day.
The pollsters note that people from “prosperous nations can be deeply unhappy ones, and poverty-stricken ones are often awash in positivity, or at least a close approximation of it.”
I had often wondered why despite the economic difficulties and day-to-day problems plaguing the Philippines, Filipinos still seem to be a happy lot — always laughing and smiling, never running out of jokes, and always partying.
Everyone knows that a big majority of Filipinos are below the poverty level, and yet every Tomas, Ricardo and Pedro owns a cell phone. Try walking through Metro Manila and, most probably, every other Filipino you come across has a cell phone glued to his ear — the businessman, the junior executive, the clerical employee, the jeepney driver, the security guard, the student, and yes, even the meat vendor in your favorite market.
They say Filipinos could hardly make both ends meet, and yet every other Filipino male seems to be in the beerhouse and night clubs almost every night, gobbling up beer and liquor till their big tummies could take it no more, and spending money on young women known as guest relations officers (GROs).
They say the inflation rate is high, and yet the malls are always full. Filipinos never seem to tire shopping. While Americans tend to do their shopping on weekends or during holidays, Filipinos do theirs any time of the day, any day of the week, sale or no sale.
They say many Filipinos are forever trapped in minimum wage, and yet you hardly see Filipinos who are not dressed in the latest fashion, from the high-priced Nike shoes, to fancy Guess watches, and Tommy Hilfiger or Polo by Ralph Lauren shirts. Of course, again, you can’t figure out which ones are genuine, and which ones are the imitation ones.
They say many Filipinos eat mostly tuyo and daing, and yet look at the fast food chains and plush restaurants — from McDonald’s to Mang Donald’s, from mobile eateries exposed to jeepneys’ exhaust (usually at jeep terminals) and from Bughaw Restaurant to bughaw eateries (bughaw nang bughaw ng langaw), these are always full to capacity.
They say Filipinos are so poor, and yet all the entertainment joints are full — the cinemas, the disco joints, the beer houses, the massage parlors, the restaurants, the dancing halls (for ballroom dancing), the hotel lobbies, the motels, the casinos, the billiard halls, the inuman sa tindahan sa kanto, the cockpits, the race tracks, the basketball arenas, the concerts, the karaoke bars, etc.
They say Filipinos can hardly afford the basic necessities, and yet look at the number of Mercedes Benzes, BMWs, Hondas, Toyotas, Mitsubishis, Jeeps, Explorers, Pajeros, and other new cars that compete for little road space with run-down jeepneys and 20-year-old or even 30-year-old cars.
They say life is so difficult in the Philippines, and yet the golf courses and tennis courts are full even on weekdays. And Filipino golfers have the latest in golf equipment, and wear the most expensive golf clothing and footwear. And where else can you find a golfer whose bag is carried by a caddy and whose head is protected by sexy umbrella girls as he trots around the golf course?
How can the Philippines be so poor, and the Filipinos so extravagant? Or is it because the Filipinos are so extravagant, that’s why the Philippines is so poor?
The answer, I presume, goes back to the influence of the Spaniards, who reigned supreme over the Philippines for more than 400 years. Look at the Mexicans and other Latinos, they also tend to be fashionable, love to party, and love to have fun, although they can hardly afford it. And among the top 10 happiest people in the world according to Gallup, eight are from Latin America.
Was it President Manuel L. Quezon who called this ability of the Filipinos to adjust to life’s difficulties as “the resiliency of Filipinos”? Resilient as a bamboo, he said, meaning Filipinos have the ability to bend with the wind, just like the bamboo, and not be uprooted by it.
“Mahirap na nga ang buhay, magmumukmok pa tayo?” a Filipino would justify his tendency to have fun despite the hard times. “Bakit ipapahalata pa nating mahirap tayo?” another would say.
So, Filipinos all over the world, don’t worry too much about our kababayans back home because they will be the first to tell you: “Don’t worry, be happy!”