Microfinancial services company Cebuana Lhuillier is promoting the culture of happiness by acknowledging Filipinos who make a positive impact on the community and the people around them.“We as a nation are known most for two things: our Filipino hospitality and our inherent ability to be happy and positive,” says Cebuana Lhuillier president and chief executive Jean Henri Lhuillier during the awarding ceremony for the 2019 Search for the Happiest Pinoy held at New World Makati Hotel.“Whether we are experiencing typhoons and other natural disasters or simply surviving the unbearable tropical heat and daily traffic, we as Filipinos always find a way to smile,” he says.
Gallup International, in its 41st Annual Global End of Year Survey, ranked the Philippines the third happiest country in the world in 2018, just behind Fiji and Colombia. In a separate study, the United Nations’ annual World Happiness Report 2019 ranked the Philippines the 69th happiest country in the world. Lhuillier says their company started the search for the happiest Pinoy in 2009 to acknowledge Filipinos who bring happiness to others. He says the bi-annual search is an advocacy program of Cebuana Lhuillier to celebrate the Filipino values of resilience, hope and tenacity.“Cebuana Lhuillier’s search for the happiest Pinoy has endured the past 10 years. From a small pawnshop company in the 1970s, Cebuana Lhuillier has grown to 2,500 outlets nationwide,” he says, adding that the company’s goal is financial inclusion for every Filipino.“The search for the happiest Pinoy is our way of recognizing Filipinos with that ‘can do’ attitude, those who are able to rise above life’s challenges and impact the lives of those around them. Through this search, Cebuana Lhuillier hopes to hone the culture of happiness and positive mindset,” says Lhuillier.He says this year’s search was the most inclusive in the last 10 years, as it received more than 800,000 applications nationwide. The search also introduced 10 categories this year, with the winner in each category receiving P50,000 in cash prize. The grand winner, selected from the 10 finalists, received P1 million.Zaldy Bueno, a 37-year-old teacher from Gumaca, Quezon who represents the professionals emerged as the grand winner. He joined past winners Winston Maxino (2009), Rommel Arellano (2012) and Richardson Navor (2015).
The nine other finalists in 2019 were Khaye Celine Maggay (youth), Francisca Tumampil (senior citizens), Fortunato Januto (overseas Filipino workers), Rodrigo Roble Jr. (lingkod bayan), Hercules Soringa (manggagawang Pinoy), Mark David Cerezo (entrepreneurs), Alfred Santos (employees), Jayson Dela Fuente (persons with disabilities) and Leovy John Terrado (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community).Each finalist went through a panel interview led by Trade Undersecretary Zenaida Maglaya; Rock Education Project Inc. founder Gang Badoy Capati; Enterph co-founder and motivational speaker RJ Ledesma; TV host, journalist and online influencer James Deakin; TV host Love Anover-Lianko; The Apprentice Asia winner and JY Consultancy and Ventures founder and managing director Jonathan Yabut; and Search for the Happiest Pinoy previous grand winners Winston Maxino, Rommel Arellano and Richardson Navor.“I am happy to share that we have received north of 800,000 applicants from all over the Philippines,” says Lhuillier. Bueno, this year’s grand winner, recalls his tough life as a child who had to quit schooling in Quezon province because of financial difficulty. He remembers seeking refuge at the barangay health center after typhoon Rosing destroyed their house in 1995. He chose to work as a school’s waiter to support his studies. As a working student, he served as his mother’s teacher in DepEd’s Alternative Learning System Class. With his relentless dream to provide a better life for his family, Bueno became a teacher and the head of the English Department of Gumaca National High School. He also established Padyak (Pidal Apakan Dunong Yayaman, Asenso’y Kakamtan), an advocacy campaign that provides bicycles to less fortunate students who struggle to stay in school.Lhuillier says Bueno is a worthy winner whose story will inspire countless people to push on despite life’s difficulties, “Zaldy exemplifies the commendable Filipino spirit of rising up from your current predicament and using that as fuel to make a difference in the lives of others,” he says.