Filipinos’ obssession with ‘happiness’ is what keeps them mired in chronic poverty

Again, I’m seeing the Happy card being played a lot these days. Filipinos can’t get enough of that card. It’s a poor man’s Ace. You can’t make yourself rich overnight, but you can certainly make yourself “happy” in the next minute. And so that is why “Happy” is de facto the buzzword of the Loser community. It also explains why buying a Lotto ticket is the Filipinos’ favourite investment strategy — because the hard work, innovative thinking, foresight, and consistency that underpin real efforts to accumulate wealth are concepts alien to Filipinos.

It is easy to retreat to the “happiness” metric when all other success indicators suck. That’s the loser approach to rationalising one’s existence. There’s a a simple colloquial term that encapsulates that attitude: sour grapes.

I don’t have a Mercedes Benz and an airconditioner but, hey, I’m happy with my wretched existence and remain thankful to “God”.

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[Cue in that idiotic “Happy” song…]


Easy and comfy nebulous retreats that give losers that warm fuzzy feeling. Lots of people have made millions of dollars selling bullshit that makes losers feel like winners — self-help books and sappy new-age BS (not to mention religious dogma that promises everything to the dead and nothing to the living) that get into idiots’ heads via their limbic systems rather than cerebral cortices.

You wonder why the Philippines continues to fail? It is because Filipinos have been led to believe that simply being “happy” makes them “winners”. That is a nice philosophy to live by — when you are happy being a loser for the rest of your existence, that is.

Without a doubt, Filipinos love to smile. But what does the Filipino smile actually mean? Apparently, not what it appears to mean. According to a United Nations “World Happiness Report”, the Philippines cannot be considered to be among the world’s happiest countries. The report, which was based on a ranking of 156 countries, put the Philippines at the 103rd spot ranking below basketcases like Namibia, Iraq, and Nigeria.

Interestingly Scandinavian countries disproportionately topped the “Happy” list and, in Asia, famously stoic countries like Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea made decent showings. It is interesting because Filipinos have always seen themselves as a charmed and “blessed” race leading a peachy existence in a rich land while deriding these affluent steely societies as ill-humoured suicidals.

One can’t be a success when one is as self-absorbed as Filipinos are. Too local and inward-looking. That’s what Pinoys are. No wonder Filipinos’ aspirations to be “world class” and “globally integrated” are never realised. Filipinos don’t see themselves as members of the global community. They see themselves as the global community’s employees.


Loser mentality = Pinoy culture

That’s the simple equation that beats all the economists’ fancy financial models that try to make sense of why the Philippines continues to fail.

When one’s mind has been taken over by the Loser Mentality virus, perimeter walls that block input to clear thinking begin rise around one’s intellectual faculties. And where there is no openness to input, the willingness and courage to face reality begins to atrophy. You can see those walls around the Filipino mind in action in most comment threads on online forums all over the Net. When realities about the Pinoy Condition are put on the table, the response is overwhelmingly emotional and, specifically, denial. The preferred approach is to attack the messenger rather than address the message using compelling ideas.

The late former American First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was said to have said:

Small minds discuss people;
Average minds discuss events;
Great minds discuss ideas.

Throw an idea at a Filipino and you get thrown back an inquiry on your personal circumstances. That’s Pinoy “Debate” 101. Re-direct the debate to personalities rather than ideas. It is a reflection of the dysfunctional National “Debate” that sees Napoles Lists as the centrepiece of criminal investigations rather than hard traceable evidence as the key focus.

To behold a society such as the Philippines’ is to understand the forces that keep millions of people deeply-mired in Third World standards of living.

There is nothing in the Philippines that could save it. Not its civilian government, not its military, not its “activists” and, most certainly, not its own people.

One, of course, can “choose” to be “happy”. Because being happy is easy.

58 Replies to “Filipinos’ obssession with ‘happiness’ is what keeps them mired in chronic poverty”

  1. Pinoys are not happy because KSP is the root of all evil. Evil can not equal true happiness. Pinoys require approval from the outside. If a so called pinoy gets on American Idol or Journey or Ellen then for some reason it is chest beating season. If pinoys are truly happy they will be happy with their own movies and their own TV shows such as they are. But they want to have to both it ways. The pinoy is da best. But the world ignores the pinoy . Whether it is food or basketball or tv shows. Pinoys love the Azkals. None of them learned to be good players in any local school or team. Nope. Pinoys keep looking for approval out there. With people they have nothing in common with. Anyone or any nation who is KSP is only faking happiness.

    1. Yeah, Gogs. When will our society ask themselves the hard questions about themselves?

      I laughed at Best Chest Beating Season haha.

      Anyway, in finances Brod Pete said something like:

      “May iPhone ka nga.
      May ipon ka ba?”

      That was unexpected from someone who seems droll to us intellectuals. Haha.

  2. Filipinos APPEAR to be happy because they don’t wanna be seen as poor, miserable, broken, lacking, etc. It is like them showing off the latest gadget and fashion/trends even if they could hardly make ends meet. Its just a facade.

  3. Your scathing article contains many valid points, it seems that you have a very good knowledge of the Filipino mindset and culture.
    My question to you is…why do you not make constructive suggestions to aid Filipino’s in modifying their way of thinking and to raising their Culture to be more in line with acceptable standards in the Global Community? If I was a Filipino I would be too insulted by the negative aspect you are so good at bringing out, I would most likely not bother to read your articles. Why not take a more constructive and helpful approach by making positive suggestions to help mitigate and reverse the problems of your fellow countrymen?

    1. We do get into solution mode every now and then.

      There’s the solution framework I developed in the early days here which encompasses many of the issues we highlight in our articles.

      There’s also a set of proposed solutions at the end of a slideshow summarising the essence of our cultural thesis here.

      Finally we also have some recommendations around the whole dysfunction surrounding Philippine elections which you can find here.

      1. just curious if you’re “happy” living here in the Phiippines or a hypocrite who can write/talk his way out just to make money. I suggest get a real job that you are not part of the problem… something your Mom would be proud of.

        1. Well done joe, now you just gave Benigno a fitting case on how a Filipino redirects arguments to personal matters rather than staying on topic and discuss ideas. Well done. (sarc)

        2. If you have read Benign0’s book and background, you would find out that he has a job, a life, and a sideline. He’s living in Australia, or so I read. He did that suggestion of yours long before you thought it up.

    2. The problem with suggesting different ideas to the Filipino people, no matter how constructive the idea is that most of them would either ignore you, just laugh it off or sneer at you. Heck they would mock you for it with a few would even label you as “mentally insane” because they cannot comprehend the ideas you share to them.

      1. Very true – usual reaction either change the topic or hysterically laugh or do the ostrich routine and stick the head in the sand.

      2. Agree with this, most cannot think out of the box, they need to be handed the answer on a silver platter, which of course wont happen

    3. “So what do you suggest?” a common question for those who cannot think for themselves. When you are given a problem, you are supposed think of a solution; that is elementary logic.

  4. I read this article and I must say you really did emphasized the realities that exist here in our country the Philippines. Tom Solski asked the right questions and I’d say I am insulted and bothered by this.

    Messenger aside, I can only sigh on your thoughts and just try to understand how you have described and equate Happiness with Success. You, me, we, and every Filipino can discuss our cultural differences, our economic problems , and blah blah blah…

    But I’d say it’s just the way and how it is these days. Take it easy and just stay cool. Perhaps we can only sigh, whine and drink the win, stuck in this happy archipelagic nation.

    1. “Take it easy and just stay cool.”

      A lot (perhaps the majority) of Filipinos treat life in the Philippines with resignation — the feeling that whatever is going to happen, however unpleasant, is going to happen and cannot be changed. There is the overall fatalistic impression that even their personal circumstances are beyond their control. Consequently, Filipinos anticipate that relief from any state of wretchedness they find themselves in, or the achievement of a desired objective, will depend on external agents and ‘messiahs.’

      It isn’t surprising, then, that many Filipinos are ‘devout’ and ‘prayerful.’ It explains why our modern political affiliations aren’t born of conviction or principle; rather, they are the result of the accretion of ‘followers’ to the most popular, or the most powerful, personalities in their immediate vicinity. It explains why certain institutions in our society — such as kinship relations and friendships — often have greater influence compared to more abstract concepts like the rule of law.

      Given that attitude of resignation and fatalism, it isn’t surprising that so many voted for a lazy incompetent who promised a ‘magical’ formula for success that turned out to be snake oil to the highest office in the land. Given the belief that we are not in control of our own circumstances, it isn’t surprising that the majority will (out of suspicion and not a little envy) question the personal situation of anyone who suggests otherwise. Given the overall feeling that we are controlled by the whims and caprices of external forces — both human and supernatural — it isn’t surprising that the majority seek comfort in pursuits that let them ‘take it easy and just stay cool.’ Won’t make difference anyway, right? So — why bother?

      1. Never said Filipino politicians were saints. And no one here is naïve enough to believe that well intentioned public officials are any more likely to make good on their campaign promises than hacks whose main purpose is to steal from the national treasury.

        Read the article and the commentary again. Try understanding it.

        The objective here was to underline the flaw in Filipino culture that leads to superficial pursuits of ‘happiness’ at the expense of a more stable society and political order.

    2. Happiness should equate with success, That’s exactly the problem with us. We keep saying it’s not. We’re stuck in happiness = champorado + tuyo.

  5. This article is too insulting to our fellow Filipinos whose living simple makes them happy. It is evidently that you are just sour graping for being an UNHAPPY PERSON.

    1. So you’re implying that you’re happy that a lot of Filipinos are still eating pagpag and still doesn’t have decent jobs? That’s the problem with da pinoys like you: always being an asshurt escapist about serious problems that you can’t handle in order to make yourself feel better.

      1. NO, that is not what he said. You are obviously one of those Filipino’s that can not read,and comprehend what is stated. It is no wonder the country is so screwed.

    2. Yes, simple living makes them happy.

      Translation: they are content to live in their squalor and wretchedness. They are content to merely wish their problems away.

      1. AGAIN, that is not what was stated. Just because you two are malcontents doesn’t mean that he or anybody else is,DUH!

        1. The article talks about obsessions w/ SHORT-term enjoyment, which is bad. So if people are happy living ‘simply’, then they have achieved LONG-term enjoyment, which is good. So, I don’t see why simple living people would be offended by the article since they have achieved long-term enjoyment and are exempt from what is ridiculed in the article. Unless they misunderstand the context of the article, that is.

  6. I don’t think happiness is a choice. I certainly couldn’t choose to be blissfully, ignorantly contented in the Philippines when I can see the problems around me, even though it would doubtless be better for my stress levels if I could. The same way I can’t take any comfort in offensive, self-contradictory, millennia-old religious teachings.

    If there are higher levels of suicide in the most developed countries, which is probably true, part of the reason could be that when someone’s life is sorted out and on track to lifelong success by their early 20s, they have more freedom to feel sad about a wider variety of things – including the state of countries like the Philippines, where the ‘happy’ people are too pacified to care about anyone outside of their immediate family, let alone spare a thought for kids in North Korea.

    Honestly, dystopian science fiction looks a lot different now I’ve spent time in Huxley’s Brave New World.

    1. The author does have valid points but sometimes we need to look at the whole picture… There are three types of Filipinos, The extremely greedy types (Napoles, Sexy, Tanda and Pogi and their peers), the “losers” (people whose mindset keeps them poor and living a day or a payday at a time) and the ones in the middle (the content ones, those who strives to be better but doesn’t mind not being too rich or financially able). For all three happiness comes easy, for the greedy, get me money = I am Happy, for the losers, I survive today with food in my stomach = I am happy, for the middle ones, I have a job, I am stable, I have everything I need, it may not be luxurios but I am comfortable = I am happy.

      If you think about it, Filipinos in general are people who are easily content, once they reach a goal (depending on the type Filipino you are) we tend rest on our laurels. That kind of outlook is both good and bad but I think that ia slowly changing, I am seeing younger businessmen, entrepreneurs and innovators who are financially savvy etc.., they may be few and far in-between but there’s more of them than 10 years ago.

    2. I would say that Filipinos constantly commit suicide as well. Only it’s the slow death of starvation and unfulfilled potentials instead of the quick death most others prefer.

      As a bonus, they get to drag other people into their miasma of depression and decay. How many families are supporting several members who don’t do a single minute of work?

      1. This add to that numerous vices of drinking, smoking and drugs and you’ve got yourself a smooth ride to the grave. It’s not as quick a stop as hanging yourself from a noose or a bullet to the head, but Flips prefer to do it slow and easy anyways am I right?

  7. Happiness to Filipinos is Escaping from Realities. This is the reason we are fond of: Telenovelas, Wowoowee Type shows, Fiesta type elections, Fiestas, etc…we also savor the success of successful Filipinos like: Pacquiao, Charice Pempengco, Arnel Pineda, etc…attaching ourselves to them. We think , we are successful also, if we attach ourselves to them…we never strive to claim our own success.
    The Filipino politicians know this mindset. So, during election time, they come bringing “Snake Oil” remedies to everybody. We swallow the bait: hook , line and sinker.
    So, we are in the same condition or even in worse condition , after each election…we will never learn.

    Happiness is elusive to define…it varies from person to person…we are all Unique…created diffently…

  8. To those wanting a solution… isn’t dropping the denial of having a problem as solution in itself? It’s the first step to solving a problem. Like the first step in the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Trying to create a happy facade reflects denial.

    I know Filipinos can still be happy despite the problems they face, but the problem is, do they really have to put up a show in doing so? It’s as if faking a smile has become a national sport.

    1. Filipinos are so thought-averse that if you showed them where their asses were, they’d be afraid to grab them with both hands.

      Filipinos want to be spoon-fed. To think for themselves doesn’t make them happy, and takes them away from their happiness. They want their ignorant bliss, and they want it perpetually.

      No wonder they don’t do it.

  9. I believe that our obsessions to being happy isnt the problem itself. it is rather our “culture” that corrupts our notion of what could have been an ideal form of happiness. In so many ways napakababaw natin as a people. Happiness is the aspiration of everyone if we really think about it. The japanese do what they because they believe that would give them the greatest satisfaction…the greatest happiness, that is. and so do the koreans and the americans and the europeans…and so to aspire to be happy isnt bad in itself. it is what has propelled these countries to become what they are today. the japanese demanded excellence and perfection in all their endeavors which made them into a technologically advanced society. I guess one could say that anything less than excellent would not make them happy…i believe our corrupted culture is the culprit… our notion of happiness is too shallow…we as a nation do not aspire for excellence. we dont think creatively and innovatively to address our problems except for a few out there…but their idealism, innovations and initiatives are stifled by the sheer pervasiveness of our corrupted and very shallow culture…i dont think religion is the problem…the americans were prominently protestants at the time when they dominated the world and that majority of their leaders were devoted christians. but their culture was different…their integrity and their depth of understanding about any subject was on a different level…not anywhere near our own…

  10. Is that one of your problems with your own race? You do really have a big problem. Most Filipinos are content with their lives and CHOOSE a simple lifestyle away from worldly desires. Even if you call it as loser mentality, most Filipinos prefer to live in religious and spiritual ways to be happy.

    If I were one of these Filipinos that you are referring to, I will say to you what Jon Bon Jovi sang saying, “It’s MY LIFE”! It’s now or never…. yeah!

    1. And it’s always gonna be never if you’re content with your sorry content in living in squalor and superstition.

  11. if you are dissatisfied with the filipinos, go find another country and live there till you drop dead.

    1. So you are satisfied with PROUD TO BE PINOY!!!! , BASTA PINOY THE BEST!!!! and MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES!!! Try the truth sometime. Who knows? Things might improve.

    2. MORE FUN IN DA PINAS!!!!!



  12. While the author is right on some aspects, we should not define happiness as just being successful, but as being significant in what we are doing. We may persuade Filipinos to be successful instead of just being “happy”, and they do become successful. Then someone will ask: “I am now wealthy and successful. But am I truly satisfied?”. Of course, since careers and wealth are a matter of want, they will keep on wanting for more. And eventually, they will be perpetually sad.

    We should tell them that if they become successful, they will not only help themselves, but also the nation (through taxes), the people around them (through services), and the next generation (through the nation’s development. We should give them what they NEED, not what they WANT, for needs give true happiness and satistaction.

    And one more thing. Don’t make the words “simple” and “wretched” synonymous. It just mess things up.

    “The Hierarchy of Needs by Maslow has five levels, and you can reach the top if you really need. But the Hierarchy of Wants has no end, and you’ll just be frustrated.

  13. nothing wrong with living a minimalistic lifestyle, provided of course that the individual produces his own sustenance(or work a job for his own basic consumption)

    what I’m witnessing in many households are work-abled people leeching off the productive relative all the while not doing anything of value.

    1. also the families will accept the added responsibilities because its in their culture to do so, yet they pride themselves of the parasitic culture and religion

  14. the way you wrote your article made me feel as if it is wrong to be happy when i have nothing at all. that smiles are bound not to be genuine because one is facing a big problem.just because they’re poor and has nothing to eat does not automatically mean their smiles are fake or they can’t be happy. it just like saying a beggar kid on the street do not deserve a coin because she’s holding a pretty doll on her right hand. you do not know where she got that doll but you could automatically assume she can afford a doll or she stole it. what you do not see is that she is happy. Those people do not have what you enjoy right now but it doesn’t mean they do not want to achieve what you have someday. everyone had dreams and goals. Give them a break, life is already hard on them. You don’t have to add up on that. Give them the opportunity that’s what they need. Not this, i’m glad though that they don’t have to read this at all.

  15. The ‘Link’ that Luke sent in October 2014 brings out a number of valid points. I have to wonder benign0 has not made any comments directed to these valid issues?

      1. Good Morning benign0
        Very fast response time. I would be interested to read your comments on this point……

        If Anything, We Should Encourage Poor People to Be Happy

        If someone wanted to help poor people, discouraging them from happiness and calling them losers, like benign0 did, will not help them. The article, “Self-worth boosts ability to overcome poverty,” from ScienceDaily discusses how encouraging the poor to improve their feelings of self-worth will help them overcome the psychological and emotional barriers that prevent them from seeking help or making good decisions.

        According to Jiaying Zhao, the study’s co author, “This study shows that surprisingly simple acts of self-affirmation can improve the cognitive function and behavioral outcomes of people in poverty.”

        In addition to that, happiness improves a person’s motivation and actually causes an individual to work harder. A study on the relationship between happiness and productivity was done by Andrew Oswald, Eugenio Proto, and Daniel Sgroi. According to the study, “Happiness and Productivity,” happiness made people around 12% more productive.

        “The driving force seems to be that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality,” says Dr. Sgroi.

  16. They are happy for the most part except when it comes to politics. Then they put up a facade of hate and finger pointing. I say facade because the politicians they support are usually no better than the other, and keep voting for them over and over, perhaps because of their filipino pride and ego to prove everyone else wrong by showing how good “their” candidate is.

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