Happiness and the family

By Tin Bartolome

Posted at Mar 20 2015 03:01 AM | Updated as of Mar 20 2015 11:03 AM

Holy Week is just around the corner. My “holy week” came in advance this year as we chanced upon a former teacher, a Jesuit priest, Father Ruben Tanseco, SJ of the RMT- Center for Family Ministries and afterwards, we celebrated the 50th anniversary (as a religious) of Mother Isabella Carlone, FDZ of the Tahanang Divino Zelo.


I signed up for a summer workshop and we chanced upon Fr. Tanseco as he was about to say Mass. The man is awesome. I always learn something from conversations with him— no matter how brief. This time, he told us about a study showing that the family is the primary source of happiness for Filipinos and in contrast, a Princeton study that said wealth was what made Americans happy. What he said made me curious, so I looked those up.

The National Statistical Board (NSCB) released a fact sheet last year showing just that: that for Filipinos, the top source of happiness was the family, the second was health and the third, religion or spiritual work.

According to TIME magazine, the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University study made by economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahneman pegged the magic number at USD75,000 per year—meaning the farther from this amount the Americans who were surveyed made, the less happy they were, but making more than this amount did not necessarily make them any happier. So, happiness does have its price in the US!


As if the meaning of happiness was made clear by these studies, hearing the religious talk about their vocation and how fulfilling it was for many of them made me even more curious about what made people happy!

Mother Isabella heads the Casetta del Divino Zelo in Bgy. Lalaan 1, Silang, Cavite. The Tahanang Divino Zelo is an apostolate of the Daughters of Divine Zeal. They care for expectant mothers in crisis and their unborn by providing shelter during the pregnancy and helping them become productive and independent after childbirth.

We first encountered Mother Isabella, Sister Darlen, Sister Tina and another young sister when we visited a bee farm and saw this little bahay kubo near the exit. They serve authentic Italian food (Mother Isabelle is Italian). The Casetta has become a regular stop for us every time we visit Silang and Tagaytay.

On one visit, we found the gate closed but when the sisters saw us, we were invited to the celebration of the Christening of one of their wards, Julie Ann. Our entire family helped ourselves to a sumptuous lunch served by the sisters.

When she found out that my children loved the eggplant parmigniana and gnocchi most, Mother Isabella graciously gave us the recipe for both! Their generosity is boundless, as is the happiness they share with their wards and those who partake of the food they serve.


Mother Isabella’s celebration happens to be the feast of St. Joseph as well. St. Joseph is the patron saint of the Universal Church, of families, carpenters, among others. This reminded me once more of the family being the source of happiness, even for the religious (whose families are the apostolate they have embraced). “You are mothers, not spinsters,” Pope Francis was said to have told nuns in May of last year. 

What a family is may not be the same for everyone and there may be people who do not derive happiness from their families. I am like most Filipinos: I derive happiness from my family, those I am related to by blood and affinity—and like the sisters of the Tahanan, those I have come to regard as “family” make me happy as well.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.