It was on the day I hiked Mount Manunggal that I knew I was in for a change. As I think back, I can’t even remember the view from the top of the mountain but the hike itself is stuck in my mind like it was yesterday. Along the trail I was hit with a powerful feeling that made me realize that my life was going to change.
To reach the trail-head we drove several hours from Cebu City, the second largest city in the Philippines. We started up a paved road which took us over the first peak and then eventually down a steep dirt road to our destination. We passed a few farms with beautiful flowers, fruit trees and foliage spilling onto the road. Our driver pulled over several times to dig up plants, which would be re-planted in her garden back in town. She handed a few pesos to the machetes wielding farmers with less negotiation and hassle than a self-checkout at Home Depot. It felt like we were hundreds of miles from civilization rather than 20.
A few locals pointed us to the start of the trail and tried to sell us Coke Zero and cigarettes for the hike. They also unveiled a state of the art karaoke machine that stood over 6 feet tall from behind a locked bamboo door. It was rolled into the clearing just off the main dirt that strung together a few huts and looked like the center of town. A few minutes later we heard the machine fire up down below followed with a spot on rendition of Livin’ on a Prayer. It was a classic Filipino sendoff. It also doubled as a timely reminder of the forced over-feedings from our gracious hosts over the last two weeks – eat eat eat!!!
The trail itself turned out not to be much of a trail at all, we were basically walking through a thicket of bushes and tall grass as we went up a steep grade. After a while, a bit of path emerged and we realized our backs were covered with sticky brown plants. Without saying a word we took turns brushing off each other’s back. I couldn’t help but think about Indian Jones and his sherpa dusting the tarantulas off each other’s backs with Indy’s whip, on their way to recover the idol.
We passed a few locals on the trail, planting vegetables and tending to their mixed flocks of goats and chicken — living way off the grid. We passed two chapels. They were more lean-to that church but it wasn’t surprising to see a house of worship so far from civilization. It was impossible to go a mile in Philippines without coming across a proper place to pray.
About halfway up the mountain there was a monument for former president, Ramon Magsaysay, who died on that spot in 1957 when his plane crashed in a tragic accident along with many members of his cabinet. I later learned that many Filipinos think of this man as the last real president to rule the country, before their current stretch of political corruption and nepotism. On the night of this fatal crash, the president was traveling from Manila to Cebu to see for himself the conditions in that province which caused the price of rice to rise from 35 to 40 pesos.
Shortly before his death, President Magsaysay gave a speech in the streets of a Manila ghetto saying that an increase in the price of rice was a matter of great concern even if it was only a few centavos. He then ordered the National Rice and Corn Corporation (NARIC) to reduce the price back to 35 pesos even if it meant the government would lose money. He proclaimed that his most important priority as President was to help the Filipino people, and his job was to ensure that the countries poorest citizen should not suffer because of unfair price increases to a commodity so essential to life such as rice.
To commemorate this great leaders life, his supporters built a small monument at the site of the crash. It wasn’t much of a display, nothing more than the plane’s engine mounted on a piece of cement along with a few plaques. One listed the passengers names who had died in the crash the other one was a short biography of the presidents life, selfless works, and dedication to bettering the lives of all Filipinos.
Learning about the former President Magsaysay was an incredible inspiration for me but that wasn’t my first reaction. I couldn’t help think about my own personal bio, the one I was required to send out before speaking engagement at advertising conferences. The thought of work hadn’t crossed my mind for weeks. As I drifted back to my work life I was crushed by the thought of my biography. I was known as an affective sales and marketing guy. I had worked at some great companies but my accomplishments were much more about where I had worked than anything else. I kept on asking myself, aside from climbing the corporate ladder, what had I been working towards for the last 10 years?
It didn’t happen overnight, it crept up on me one promotion and added responsibility at a time. My job had become who I was; it had taken over my identity. It had taken years to build my resume but it was literally a few minutes on the side of a mountain in the Philippines that made me realize that I needed to change directions. This wasn’t a completely new thought for me I had already quit my job, packed a bag and planned a trip to Asia with no return date. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do next but it had become crystal clear that I couldn’t trade one company in for another. I needed to start working toward my goals in life.
Did I even know what I wanted to accomplish? I would have answered yes several months prior but on that day it didn’t seem clear at all. I always figured I would work hard, try to make as much money as possible and then use my money to help others around the world. That plan was no longer good enough for me. For the first time in my life I realized that I didn’t have to wait to become the person that I wanted to be. As we walked away from the monument I decided to the first step would be to update my bio.
When we got down from the mountain I spent an hour staring at my journal, I was hoping to improve my existing bio but it felt like I was wasting my time. I needed to start fresh and make up a future for myself as if I had already accomplished all of my goals and I didn’t need a paycheck to survive. With my new-found creative freedom, I transformed myself. Without the boundaries of reality I was able to work on any project I wanted to or take any job I felt like.
Eric Facas is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for leveraging Internet technology for positive social impact. His mission is created prosperity and opportunity for others. In his career he has dedicated himself to helping non-profits and good causes grow by making it easier for these organizations to market themselves and raise money. In his personal life Eric loves to travel with his family, help friends achieve their goals, and hike an occasional mountain.