Last January 31, 2016, I flew to San Francisco and had the wonderful opportunity of being chosen as one of the eighteen invited by Facebook on their 12th Anniversary Friends Day celebration with California-based Alopecia awareness advocate, Rachel Regal. Alopecia is an autoimmune condition which results in partial or total head and body hair loss. I have had it since I was four, and hers just developed sometime in 2012, the same year she discovered that her 10-year-old daughter, Eliana, had it, too. Six inspiring stories were picked by Facebook among its 1.64 billion users and we were all amazed when we’ve found out that our Alopecia story was one of them. Imagine that!
We’ve met each other through the double A hand sign campaign that I’ve started in 2012, and we’ve been “connected” since then. Last year, Facebook Stories featured how we were able to build a friendship, as well as campaign for disease awareness through Facebook! And last February 1st, we’ve had the chance to tour their headquarters in Menlo Park, San Francisco, meet and chat with the people behind Facebook (Founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, CPO Chris Cox, and a whole lot of awesome people), get crazy cool gadgets and have one of the best experiences of our lives.
It was such a surreal feeling to be in the same room as the creator of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. He was wearing his trademark look (jeans, sneakers, shirt and a big smile on his face), and had such a friendly, approachable aura and demeanor about him. Not at all intimidating! He told us stories about how the company started, its mission-vision, the ups and downs that come along, and their future plans. We’ve also had the chance to ask him questions and I especially loved how he answered Rachel’s question about achieving success and life’s “impossibilities”. He said, “There’s a difference between impossible and things taking a really long time. Even if you’re not going to be able to do something in a short time period, if you care about something, you want to see the world to move into that direction… So the best thing to do is just get started and not be discouraged. It’s tough because this stuff is hard, or else people would’ve already done it.”
I’ve also got the chance to ask a question to one of the world’s 50 most powerful, successful women in business, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Aside from Alopecia awareness, I am also an active Real Beauty advocate with girls and women struggling with various insecurities, being so consumed by the world’s unrealistic and sometimes superficial standards of beauty. So I’ve asked her about her perception of it. She said that beauty is just like success and that no one could really define it for you. We are all unique. We have different stories, dreams and desires. We should explore our own inner and outer beauty, believe and embrace that we are beautiful, and never allow anyone to tell us otherwise.
Mark capped off his talk by sharing their company philosophy with all of us. Though already having over 1 billion subscribers, there are still 7 billion people all over the world without access to all the meaningful connections and information that Facebook brings. One thing that the company stands by is that “things are always 1% completed”. It keeps them grounded, reminding them that there is always so much work, growth and progress to be done, and so many people to reach out to and help.
Everything about the Facebook trip was overwhelming and inspiring. More than anything, it reminded me about “responsibility”. We are all given our own platforms, in this case “accounts and connections”, to make a dent in this world. It is up to us to become complacent and take these vehicles for granted, or maximize the opportunities and use them to make a positive impact in this generation. I am grateful that Facebook has become a medium for me to communicate disease awareness and touch people beyond the confines of my tiny room and my country. I’m glad Rachel and I are two out of millions of people choosing to recognize the importance of social media in contributing to making this world a better place, and actually doing something about it.
Truly, God plans the best adventures and creates the most beautiful surprises. I know I wouldn’t have been handpicked for this if it weren’t for Him, as well as the countless individuals who have cared and showed support for my advocacy. I guess one thing I could leave with everyone is that we should really take the time to search for and identify our “purpose” – that one unique, very specific calling that is the result of our talents, dreams, desires, passions and experiences. Once you find it, be faithful to it no matter how long or difficult the journey towards its fulfillment may be. You’ll never know where it could lead to, how far it could go and how large it could grow. I’m glad my campaign continues to spread and reach new heights. I’m grateful to Facebook for giving me this opportunity and to Novuhair, Nature’s Answer to Hair Loss (www.novuhair.com), for always being so supportive of my advocacy and endeavors. I am proud and honored to have represented the Philippines and the Alopecia community in this once-in-a-lifetime, international event.
Here’s a link to a song and video that I’ve made for Friends Day! It pretty much sums up how the experience made me feel, and how grateful I am for friends, family and meaningful connections.
FRIENDS DAY SONGTAG SOMEONE WHO MAKES YOU FEEL LIKE EVERYDAY IS #FRIENDSDAY! Everyday is Friends Day with the ones you love 🙂 I was inspired to write this after being invited as one of 18 to take part in last week’s 12th anniversary Friends Day celebration by #Facebook. I got to reunite with my friend Rachel Regal (whom I met through Facebook when I began my #AlopeciaAwareness campaign in 2012), tour their headquarters in Menlo Park, California, meet and chat with the people behind it (Founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, CPO Chris Cox and a whole lot of awesome people), and have one of the most amazing, surreal, unexpected, overwhelming experiences of my life. *Inhale, exhale* Wild.This song and video pretty much sums up how the experience made me feel, and how grateful I am for friends, family and meaningful connections. Just a little something to show how real friendships make our lives fun, easier and during tough times, better and a whole lot bearable.Thank you, Facebook for this incredible opportunity. And thank you for bringing us — the whole world, together.Special thanks to Tita Angeli Pangilinan Valenciano and my Manila Genesis family, Ms Mae Vellila and Novu Hair, CameraHaus Philippines, Eleksis Marketing Corp and my dearest friends and family who have always been there to support me, my music and advocacy 🙂 I love and appreciate you all.#EverydayIsFriendsDay! Thank you, Elvin Reyes for helping me bring my song to life 🙂 #FriendsDaySong
Posted by Abby Asistio on Wednesday, 10 February 2016