A Much Needed Adventure:
It was on the day I hiked Mount Manunggal that I realized my life was about to change. I can’t even remember the view from the top of the mountain but the hike itself and revelations along the way which lead to some major changes in my life and career are stuck in my mind like it was yesterday.
While traveling in the Philippines we were on the look out for a good hike. We started with grand ambitions, a quick search and we found the tallest mountain in the country, Mount Apo, 9,692 Ft. When we learned Apo was located a few hour flight south and in a region famous for the MILF terrorist group, we quickly opted for Mount Manungal, 3,290 Ft and 30 miles from where we were staying.
To reach the trail-head we drove hours from Cebu City. When the highway ended we took a dirt road up and over the first peak and then down a steep ravine. There were beautiful flowers, fruit trees and foliage spilling onto the road. Our driver pulled over several times to dig up vegetables, to 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. It was awesome! This is exactly what I was looking for when I quit my cushy job at Google a few months earlier.
A few locals pointed us to the start of the trail and tried to sell us Coke Zero and cigarettes for the hike. We got the sense that they didn’t see too many hikers in these parts. We were complete strangers but that didn’t stop them from unveiling a state of the art karaoke machine from behind a locked bamboo door. It was rolled out into the pathway along with a few stools and happy kids. We passed on the offer to join in. As we headed up the first part of the trail we heard a spot on rendition of Livin’ on a Prayer. It was the perfect Filipino sendoff for our journey to the top of the mountain. It was also timely reminder of the forced over-feedings from our gracious hosts over the last two weeks – eat eat eat. This hike was going to hurt!
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. Wishing thinking perhaps. But this was a big adventure compared to long days in the office, an endless amount of “planning” sessions, client meetings, and conference calls.
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.
An Unexpected Life Lesson:
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. 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 - the equivalent of 1/10th of a US cent.
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. Selfishly, I couldn’t help think about my own personal bio, the one I was required to send out before speaking engagement and 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 had no clue what I wanted to do next with my career but I certain that I shouldn’t wait to be the person I wanted to be.
Several months prior I would have said that I had a clear idea of what I wanted to accomplish in life 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. I have great admiration for Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Ted Turner and the rest of the amazing people that participate in The Giving Pledge even if I never come close to their type of wealth I have always dreamed of having enough for my family to live a comfortable life and then give back the rest. This was no longer good enough for me. For the first time 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 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 decided to start fresh, make up a future for myself as if I had already accomplished all of my goals. With this new-found creative freedom, I transformed myself, at least on paper.
Eric Facas is an entrepreneur and investor with a passion for leveraging Internet and technology for positive social impact. His mission is to help those that make the world a better place do more of what they do. Eric loves to spend time with his family and friends, travel as much ass possible, day dream about solving the worlds problems, and occasionally hike a mountain.
What started out as a bunch of words on paper has turned into a career altering experience. Without the boundaries of reality I was able to create the life I wanted for myself. That was the hard part. You can’t become that person overnight but you now have a compass to keep you on track. If you’re not working toward your goals then you will never reach them.
In the years since writing my first fictional bio I have learned that you can do anything you want in life, the one thing you can’t control is WHEN. Every goal you haven’t accomplished becomes something you haven’t accomplished yet as long as you’re working on it.