Tuesday, January 24, 2012

KCAT CAN: I'm one happy Pinoy

Cebuana Lhuillier Insurance Solution's Search for Happiest Pinoy is back!

I'm one happy Pinoy
by Maria Kathrina Lopez Yarza 
January 23, 2012

According to the 2009 Happy Planet Index published by the New Economics Foundation, the Philippines is the 14th happiest country in the world.

Filipinos are indeed a happy, happy people.
The country has encountered a lot of tragedies in the past, from earthquakes to storms and floods, Filipinos have always remained strong-hearted. Poverty has also been a major problem of the country. A lot of people are jobless, we see families living on the streets, children asking for alms. Yet, we tend to find happiness in our surroundings. Even in difficulties, most of us could find a thing or two to laugh about.

Happy people gain friends easily, which makes the Filipinos a very friendly people. We can actually become friends even without knowing each other’s names, always welcoming a person seated next to us. Have you ever wondered why social networking websites and unlimited use of cellphone services are such a big hit in the country? It is because Filipinos are a happy, friendly people.

I have always been a happy person. A friend to everyone, I always look at the bright side of life. I do not like dull and awkward moments, so I would crack jokes and do funny antics to make my friends laugh. When I became sick, it was my happy stance and positive outlook that had helped me get through it.


In 2009, my Mom and I saw an article about the Search for the Happiest Pinoy sponsored by Cebuana Lhuillier Insurance Solutions (CLIS). More than the grand prize of R200,000, the criteria for the contest caught our attention more. The search aimed to find the happiest Pinoy who has the following qualities: an optimistic outlook in life, a cheerful disposition, a proven ability to rise above life’s challenges, and a positive impact in the lives of others. My Mom looked at me and said that she will nominate me. My family and friends could not have agreed more.

“Kcat grew up to be a normal girl despite all the medical problems. She was not affected by her physical defects; she would just laugh about it and even make use of it to entertain her friends. We didn’t know that there were tumors in her brain that were causing gradual health deterioration.”

That was an excerpt from the entry that my Mom, Madge Yarza, sent. About 200 entries were submitted from all over the country. From 40 contestants, down to 20, and finally making it to the top seven finalists, one of the judges asked me, “What do you think is your purpose in life?”

I immediately replied: “Ma-BUHAY.”

And that was the point when I started using the word whenever I am asked the same question. What’s a Happiest Pinoy nominee for without making the crowd laugh?

The judges were all in laughter with my punchlines and antics. I also got to meet and know my other six co-finalists. I was surprised to know that I was the youngest and the most inexperienced in terms of public service.

The prize went to Winston Maximo, who is battling Ankylosing Spondylitis, a degenerative bone condition. His daughter Brina Kei was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome. But instead of allowing the setbacks to get him down, he used them as a source of motivation to help others. Happiness is always a choice, so he chose to continue being happy.

Even though the campaign already ended, CLIS continues to support my fund drives and other advocacies. They would always be updated with what the seven finalists are up to, like Nanay Nona Andaya-Castillo who recently won the international plum from the Bill Gates Foundation for her breastfeeding advocacy, and Rex Bernardo, who became one of the recipients of the Dangal ng Lahing Pilipino Award.

The first Nationwide Search won four recognitions in 2011 from both local and international award-giving bodies, namely: the Philippine Quill Excellence Award, the Anvil Award of Merit, the Bronze Tambuli Award, and the Stevies International Business Awards for PR Campaign for the Year.


The CLIS Search for the Happiest Pinoy is back in 2012. The main objective of the campaign is to promote Filipino values of optimism and resilience since according to CLIS general manager, Jonathan Batangan, the Filipino is a happy survivor.

The search is open to Filipinos, of legal age, of good moral character, and a resident of the Philippines who has: (1) a constantly cheerful face and optimistic outlook, (2) has a proven ability to rise above life’s challenges, and (3) has a positive impact in the lives of others.

Submission of nominations started last October 21, 2011 and will end on May 30, 2012. The top 10 finalists will be announced in June 2012. The Happiest Pinoy Award winner will be receiving a trophy and R250,000 in cash; while the other nine finalists will each receive R25,000 and a trophy.

Mr. Batangan said that while there have been politicians among the nominees, they would rather see more nominees from ordinary Filipinos, like a mother who survived surgery for cancer, or an advocate of soliciting more government fund support for the treatment of illnesses among children. They hope to see more stories of these everyday people who continue to be the strength of a family, a friend, and a nation.

For details on how to nominate someone you know who may qualify, visit

Additional info:

Before the awarding event, I jokingly told my friends, “Pag nanalo ako, magpapa-inom ako …ng gulaman!” After the grand winner was declared, I still treated my friends because although I did not win the grand prize, I received Php 25,000 and I surely, definitely still was a winner! I gained a number of new friends and supporters. I got to have more exposures via interviews, and I got to share my story. And the best part was that I was offered to be one of the regular columnists of Manila Bulletin to further inspire hope and optimism in our countrymen. And that is how KCAT CAN began.

Borrowing the new DOT slogan "more fun in the Philippines":
 makes it more fun in the Philippines! 

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