Understanding The Filipino Brand of Happiness

The Philippines has plenty of problems – well-documented at that. Yet in the midst of the poverty, politics, and calamities, Filipinos seem to always see the silver lining.

One great example of this would be the country’s handling of Haiyan, the strongest typhoon to ever hit land – which was doubtlessly one of the biggest tragedies in the country’s history. But amid the rubble, images of smiling, and even laughing survivors were seen across the world – putting into light the inherent optimism many Filipinos seem to carry.

As recently as in 2017, the country ranked as third happiest in the world, according to Gallup International’s 41st Annual Global End Of The Year survey. In that specific survey, Filipinos were asked: “In general, do you personally feel very happy, happy, neither happy nor unhappy, unhappy or very unhappy about your life?” About 86% answered they were happy, 2% unhappy, and about 10% answering neither.

Other tropical nations bested us out, with Fiji and Colombia taking the first and second spots respectively. Could it be the year-long sunshine? It might be a little more complex than that – and with relatively frigid Kazakhstan and The Netherlands being part of the top 10, it’s time we took a look at the reasons why Filipinos seem to emerge as a happier people globally.


Community: A Look At Filipina Domestic Helpers In Hong Kong

Credit: KC Wong | Flickr


Credit: KC Wong | Flickr

 Stroll along the global financial hub on a Sunday and you’ll find that Hong Kong becomes a different city. In an old article from The Economist, it describes the city’s numerous Filipina domestic helpers – maids and nannies – during their sole day off for the week.

“Thousands of Filipina women throng into the central business district, around Statue Square, to picnic, dance, sing, gossip and laugh. They snuggle in the shade under the HSBC building, a Hong Kong landmark, and spill out into the parks and streets. They hug. They chatter. They smile. Humanity could stage no greater display of happiness.”

Yet this is all in the face of several issues: one of which is being separated from their own families, and often more pressing, are the appalling working conditions they experience from many of their employers.

The article notes that this is Filipino culture’s sense of inclusiveness at work: groups of women eventually becoming friends due to their shared situations, and likely, their shared sense of religion and values – as the same women usually attend the same Catholic churches together on their day-off.

With the plight of Filipina domestic helpers highly visible in Hong Kong, major global news outlets have also taken note, including SBS in Australia.


Family, Health, and Religion: 3 Significant Factors

Hong Kong’s Filipina domestic helpers are an easily observable case of the country’s inherently optimistic culture. Yet the reasons behind their cheerfulness can also be confirmed back at home.

In 2010, the National Statistical Coordination Board outlined the top 3 factors that make Filipinos happy: namely being family, health, and religion.

Family makes for an interesting case, given the country’s close-knit culture. The typical Filipino lives with extended family for instance, with countless birthdays, weddings, and baptisms being celebrated with the whole clan.

Health is a major factor as well – tied to family, which while prioritized as a way to keep each other company, is also a costly factor that many Filipinos struggle with. Nevertheless, the concept of health is majorly tied into the Filipino idea of happiness.

Thirdly, the National Statistical Coordination Board report highlights religion as another key consideration for Filipinos’ happiness, with the country reporting an 86% population of Catholics, as well as a vigorous Muslim minority mainly concentrated in the southern island of Mindanao. For many Filipinos, subscribing to a certain faith keeps them grounded, and also allows them to hope for something better in the future.

Humor: Finding the Funnier Side To Everything

 The Filipino spirit seems to relish the lighter aspects of life. Online, one can see a sizable presence that pokes fun of the issues that hound everyday living in the Philippines. From the inefficiencies of the public transport system, to jokes about political figures, the country seems to never run out of things to laugh about.




Esquire Philippines

The Economist

Manila Standard

Asia Society

Filipino Life Magazine