Opinion & Analysis

The search for happiness

9:11 PM, August 2, 2017

Philippines:Philippines is ranked 73rd on the International Happiness Index, despite many people living in fear and poverty.

A child plays with her pet in an urban poor community in Manila where the happiness index remains high despite the poor situation of people. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

The happiness seen on the faces and in the lives of children recovering and overcoming the effects of sexual abuse is inspiring. Their resilience and strength to work their way back to emotional and mental health is extraordinary.

Sarah-Ann, 14, walked with two police officers and two social workers to a bus stop in the province of Pampanga. The girl was determined to get justice for the rape that she endured several times from her abuser.

When she saw the man, she pointed him out to the police and social workers, who moved in and grabbed him before he could run.

It was a traumatic moment for Sarah-Ann, but there was a glimmer of satisfaction in her eyes, a moment of happiness perhaps that justice might finally be done for her. The man will get life in prison if found guilty.

In a padded therapy room where the emotional burden of victims of abuse is released, the anger is expressed freely in screams and cries. The children punch and pound on the cushions as they imagine themselves fighting back.

The relief is evident afterwards, the peace is clear, the clarity is there, and one can see the healing, recovering, and growing in emotional maturity and understanding. These are the lucky few.

Thousands of other children are trafficked and abused every day without getting help. Street children are jailed for no reason. The system fails them.

Therapy empowered, healed, and emboldened Sarah-Ann to speak out courageously and to look for justice and to testify in court.

Many government officials ignore child abuse, and there are times that they are the ones who facilitate a settlement between the rapist and the parents of the victim. The official gets a cut from the money, and the abused child is ignored.

The Philippines is ranked 72nd on the International Happiness Index although Filipinos live under a climate of fear due to the government's war on drugs.

Police and paid vigilantes have allegedly killed as many as 10,000 suspected drug users and dealers in only a year. The rate of mental illness has reportedly grown due to the stress and tension caused by the war on drugs.

An independent survey says 73 percent of the population is living in fear that death squads might kill them or their relatives or neighbors. The threat of a nationwide declaration of martial law is also seriously unsettling many and is causing added stress.

Filipinos will endure and overcome this challenge. This is their strength: resilience and fortitude in the face of hardships and challenges.

In a country of more than 100 million people, extreme poverty reigns. The middle class will grow prosperous even as infrastructure is built to benefit the rich. The poor will continue to get poorer.

The chance of Sarah-Ann getting a good job is slim. She says she dreams of having a small business one day, but she will be taxed at 32 percent and pay as high as 12 percent value added tax on consumer goods.

Thousands of Filipinos continue to stream abroad in search for prosperity and happiness. They will work hard night and day and support their families back home who continue to look for a measure of happiness in an ocean of sadness.

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse.

Source: UCAN

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