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Opinion

Merrier worlds

SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. - The Philippine Star

With the advent of the local campaign season, people are smiling more. This triennial exercise is an excellent occasion to indulge candidates who will never again be this humble, generous and approachable. We also reward returning suitors who did well by us. As for the ones who failed us, a second chance or the chance to shut the door in their faces, figuratively.

Either way, a happy if interesting occasion. Of course, in these pandemic times we welcome all excuses for happiness, even if labored. The vaunted Filipino resilience is best personified in how we laugh away our problems. Unofficial poet laureate Freddie Aguilar captured it in song: “Tawanan mo ... ang iyong problema.”

And it shows. In the 2022 World Happiness Report released annually by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, our self-rated happiness ranking went up one notch (from 61 to 60). In the entire Southeast Asia, only Singaporeans are happier.

Say that again? Lest we fall back on the Charlie Brown or Pharrell Williams definitions, wellbeing or happiness is popularly understood as the state or condition of contentment or satisfaction. Negatively defined, it may be referred to as the absence of dissatisfaction and discontent. If used as a guidepost for government policy, wellbeing and happiness are highly subjective indicators that vary from person to person.

The survey’s drivers of happiness are strong economic growth, healthy life expectancy, social support, generosity, trust, freedom to live the life that’s right for you and even perceptions of corruption.

What would you rather? Scholars agree that happy places make happy people and places less happy breed discontent. In the Philippines, globalization and liberalization may egg us to pursue prosperity on the backs of economic strategies that reflect these priorities. The economic guard has us on a tight leash. Recall that even against the President’s express preference for federalism, our economic managers hedged as it would be detrimental to economic calculations.

But wellbeing is intimately related to government and culture. Policy makers and our public leaders should make it their business to help rediscover who we truly are as a people in order to know what makes us happy elementally. That we enjoyed initial success post World War II as a showcase of the west is the same reason we haven’t progressed beyond it. Neighboring countries have outpaced us in the development indices, be it for economy or overall wellness. Their enormous sense of self and identity is what feeds their contentment and satisfaction.

Rather than prioritizing economic targets and hoping that wellbeing follows, might we not prioritize wellbeing so that economic targets may ensue? Wealth equals happiness, yes. Doesn’t happiness also equal wealth? JRR Tolkien, in The Hobbit, wrote: “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

Tickety split. The vice presidentiables are split on the issue of tandem voting. Not all favor a shift to the US single ticket style, package deal where a vote for the president is a vote for the vice president.

The elected vice president is statutorily accorded an enormous annual budget for what is largely an office devoted to ceremony. Through the years, the VEEP has been deferentially allowed such duties as he/she may define though there is no constitutional responsibility except to wait (to assume in the event of a presidential vacancy).

The proposal to ride on a president’s vote or, for that matter, for him/her to carry a weaker top half is anti-democratic. If the position’s existential reason is to prevent a void in service, then any such successor to the president would be more acceptable to a constituency that had the privilege of direct choice. Senate President Tito Sotto wisely articulates that this also works well as a check and balance mechanism.

The last 100. For chief executives who are term limited, like the president, we have officially entered the last 100 days of their term. Come July 1, they revert back from Mr. President, Governor, Mayor, Secretary to ordinary Juan de la Cruz. For each day remaining, they continue in the unparalleled position to serve their public as best they can. Let’s hope they all grab the opportunity to milk this gig until the final moments of June 30, doing the job they’d have no right to do when they turn back into pumpkins at midnight.

Birthday. My father, Senate President Ernesto “Manong Ernie” M. Maceda, would have turned 87 today. He’d have been in his element in these “times that try men’s souls.” Of course, he would still be retired but given the inordinate number of national, regional and local leaders he mentored in his lifelong service as government official and political operative, he’d definitely be keeping tabs of the different campaigns from Aparri to Jolo.

The grand courtship for the all important public trust is as much its own reward as the victor’s proclamation itself. Whether as candidate or campaigner/campaign manager, Manong Ernie embraced the activity and accorded it the respect it deserved. In public, the grand or street rallies; the media covered debates; the market sorties or going house to house in local races. In private, the backroom discussions, or just being in the war room devouring the latest reports, updating voters lists, mapping out strategy or making the effort to contact supporters, financiers and all who could deliver.

That was his life and those were the days. More than relying on algorithms and science or applying scale considerations to the use of media, Manong Ernie went personal. If he were still with us, I’m sure he would have stood on the stages, delivered his speeches, shared his analyses on TV, joined the motorcades, visited the markets, pressed the flesh. Locally and proudly, for his son Congressman Edward VP Maceda in the campaign for reelection in Manila’s 4th district and nationally, for his friends and mentees.

To all who remember him today, thank you from our family to yours.

UN

WORLD HAPPINESS REPORT

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