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Happiness is a choice

I belong to a Bible prayer group (the aftermath of our Cursillo days) that meets at the house of Alice Lejano every Monday from 10 to 11:30 a.m. After the session we would eat out. Here’s a story I always tell friends. One day, we had lunch at Little Quiapo in Quezon City for its popular halo-halo. As usual with us who have been friends for decades, there was a lot of banter and laughter from our table. On our way out, we heard somebody remark, “Tingnan mo nga. Ang tatanda na nila, pero ang saya-saya pa rin.”

“Salamat po,” we answered back. Don’t good food and deep friendship make for happiness?

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In the ’80s, we were five close neighbors (three are gone now) who met every Thursday for lunch. We called ourselves “The Umbrella Brigade,” because with our umbrellas we just walked to nearby eateries on West Avenue and Quezon Avenue, a couple of blocks away from our village. We did not go to fast-food places because as one remarked, “Ano? I already pay for my food and still have to serve myself? No way!” So we always sat at tables where servers waited on us. My friend Luz Santiago had an interesting peculiarity. When she liked the waiter, at the end of the meal, she would bring out a crisp P100 bill and put it in his hand. She was always happy to see the look of surprise and joy on his face as he said “salamat po.”

One summer, when my late husband Felix and I went to the United States and landed at the Los Angeles International Airport, a black attendant helped us with our luggage from the carousel to my daughter’s car. After he had put in the last suitcase in the car’s luggage compartment, Felix gave him a $20 bill (the usual rate is $5). The man’s face broke into a huge smile and he kept saying “thank you, sir” as he opened the car door to let us in. In the car, Felix told me, “I’m happy that I made him happy.” Aren’t generosity and gratitude causes of happiness?

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I have a large family who see each other quite often because we always celebrate important occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, etc. I always enjoy the big spread (mostly potluck), the camaraderie, the bonding, and especially the big hugs from the kids. All that stopped with the COVID-19 lockdown and left a void in my heart.

To offset the disheartening situation, one daughter (I have five) hosts a Zoom session with all her siblings (four are abroad) every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 8 to 9 a.m. I cannot participate fully in the chats because of my impaired vision and hearing, but it is enough that we are all together even if only virtually. For as The Little Prince says, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.”

To me, a loving family is the most essential ingredient of happiness.

All the above-mentioned examples are impelled and motivated by love. But love also has to be expressed in words. The beloved needs to be told that he/she is loved. When, you may ask. The time is now. Let me quote— with some modifications — what an unknown writer said:

“If you love me, tell me now, while I can know the sweetest tender feelings which from true affection flows. Tell me now while I am living; do not wait until I’m gone and then have it chiseled in marble, sweet words on ice cold stone. If you have tender thoughts of me, please tell me now. If you wait until I am sleeping, never to awaken, there will be death between us, and I won’t hear you then. So, if you love me, tell me while I am living so I can treasure it.”

Happy and loving 2021.

* * *

Lourdes Syquia Bautista, 97, is a retired University of Santo Tomas professor and has 12 children, 27 grandchildren, and 23 great-grandchildren.

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TAGS: happiness, High Blood, Lourdes Syquia-Bautista
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