“Masaya” vs “Maligaya” and the Limits of Hedonism

One of my favourite topics in this blog is this concept of masaya vs maligaya, the two words that Filipinos use to talk about happiness.

As I have already mentioned in this blog, masaya seems to refer to happiness that is there only when some form of titillation and stimulation is available, while maligaya refers to inner joy that doesn’t seem to depend upon stimulation.

As I have said many times, the Philippines is the land of fast-food restaurants, shopping malls, tsismis, salu-salo, inuman, karaoke, TV, social media and everything else that is designed to provide instant gratification.

Many Filipinos have a pangarap to work abroad and buy their dream car and their dream house.

I have experienced and I am still experiencing what it is like to have a dream house. However I also know from personal experience that a life that is structured and organized around achieving material comfort has very little to do with happiness and I know from personal experience that many people who have plenty of things that Filipinos dream of often have plenty of problems.

I have just returned from my parents’ village which is situated in one of the most famous tourist spots in the world where I have a house that has a “dream view”.

Obviously I am very grateful for the amazing childhood that my parents offered me, I can’t deny that: my parents bought this house situated on the top of a hill that has an amazing view of the world-class Capri Island and I am still enjoying it (provided that I will be able to maintain It).

When I was a child and a teen-ager we used to have a boat and a lot of other things like cars and motorcycles.

Many of my relatives have amazing mansions and plenty of money.

I am kind of the black sheep of the family because I have not built anything on top of what was offered to me when I was younger and I am living a rather simple and minimalistic life (despite the fact that I have a house on the Amalfi Coast).

One reason is because nowadays earning even one fifth of the money my father used to make is extremely difficult as the economy is going downhill in this country.

But the most important reason is that, growing up in a relatively wealthy environment, has taught me that our main problem is not having or not having plenty of “stuff”: I have seen some of my well-off relatives die of terrible diseases like cancer and go through various tragedies that no amount of money could ward off.

Since early childhood I have been aware that, given the brevity of life, staking one’s existence on things that cater to the need of being masaya is not the wisest way to live.

Everything we have or wish to have that caters to the desire to be on a high is something that can be lost at any moment and, because life is short, we will part with it anyways.

That is why I try to share with my mga kabayan that shooting for being maligaya is more rewarding than the shallow and short-lived pleasure that houses, cars, entertainment etc can offer.

King Solomon said that all of that is a “striving after wind”.

I couldn’t agree more.

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