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An article about a remark made by Pope Francis caught my attention recently.

In his homily in St. Peter’s Square before some 70,000 youth who were in Rome for a Holy Year weekend for teenagers, Pope Francis said that “happiness has no price” and that it is “not an app that you can download on your phones, nor will the latest update bring you freedom and grandeur in love.”

His words were, of course, intended to remind young people that while advancements in technology, specifically in Smartphones, have helped our personal and professional lives, they cannot control our lives.

Sure, you can now synchronize all your schedules, appointments, tasks and notes in one app that is readily available to you anytime, anywhere. You can now access social media platforms in your phones making it easier to connect to friends and family. Your whole life, in fact, can be organized right there in your Smartphone.

I remember there was a time when a planner or a small notebook was so valuable to us because it contains the numbers of our contacts, notes taken during a business meeting, and once you lost it or forget it at home, it was as if you could not perform any of your intended tasks.

I guess we have really come a long way in terms of making technology useful in our lives. But the Holy Father is absolutely correct. While Smartphone technology has indeed helped our lives, it cannot control it.

I like that Facebook and Twitter and other social media apps have made connecting very easy. This is especially valuable to our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who can “connect” to their loved ones they left home. But it is troublesome when you see a family or group of friends in a restaurant all glued to their phones instead of having meaningful conversations.

It is remarkable how certain apps have allowed people a voice to share their stories, travels, photos, and the like with the rest of the world. But it is a bit funny that while before we say a prayer before a meal, now we take a photo of our food for posting before we eat.

I am sure Pope Francis is not rejecting technology per se. Remember, the Pope is on Twitter! He is simply reminding us that technology is simply a tool and that there is no substitute for communing with God and the other human person beside you. It is that connection to God and our friends and loved ones that makes us happy.

I do not claim any academic expertise on happiness. In fact, I do not think happiness is something that can be measured objectively. Happiness is something inherently personal. Simply put, what makes you happy IS what makes you happy. This may be different as far as other people are concerned.

It may be a cliché but it is true that the simplest things can bring the most happiness. That is certainly true in my case. I always find joy in our Sunday family lunch or meryenda. It has been a tradition in the Villar family to get together on Sundays no matter how busy we are. Not only do we enjoy the food but we enjoy the stories that go around the dining table. It is a time for us to catch up given how hectic our schedules are.

I also enjoy very much the Sunday evening movie date with my wife. There is no substitute for a relaxing time in a moviehouse especially with Cynthia. There, away from the pressures of work, we lose ourselves in the magic of cinema.

This has always been a favorite pastime of mine. Even when I was a student, my friends and I would go to Cubao to watch double-feature films for only 60 centavos. Oh, simple things.

Nowadays, my sources of happiness are my two new grandchildren, eight and five months old. There is nothing more rewarding than hugging and kissing these bundles of joy. It is a different kind of happiness, being a grandfather.

It is true what they say, “an hour with your grandchildren can make you feel young again.”

I am very sure that no app can replicate the feeling you get when you hold your grandchildren and they giggle while looking at you.

Try downloading that!

(For comments/feedback email to:mbv.secretariat@gmail or visit www.mannyvillar.com.ph.) (Senator Manny Villar)