Victor Consunji on fatherhood, being newly single, and never retiring: ‘you try to focus on what’s important so your life doesn’t go off kilter’ - Lifestyle Asia

“I don’t rank this as being any more special than what say other friends have gone through. It basically got it’s fleeting, what five seconds, of tsismis.”

Every day, when bricklayer-daredevil Victor Consunji wakes up, he asks himself two questions: One, “What do I have to do today?” Two, “What do I want to do today?”

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The answer to the former is a long list of responsibilities that come alongside his role as the president and chief executive officer of his own construction company, Victor Consunji Development Corporation (VCDC). The answer to the latter has a lot do with checking up on his nine-year-old son Connor’s life, and thinking about the next challenge that lies ahead.

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His days don’t share many things in common, he reveals, in his equable, candid self—except that he has to keep a constant, although vacillating levels, of adrenaline rush.

“I try not to live a structured day,” the 44-year-old athlete tells Lifestyle Asia in a virtual interview. “There’s a lot of thinking involved—forward thinking. What if I want to do this? What if I want try that? And it’s almost like a risk-reward assessment.”

And this assessment covers not only his business ventures and new projects, but also the other risky adventures that could make insurance companies a little nervous: skydiving, swimming with sharks, running ultra-marathons, among others.  

And then, there are calmer days, those that involve catching up with friends, taking a road trip, and cooking: “I try to see what kind of recipes chefs pull out of their repertoire, and try to do those recipes, and try to improve them. It’s fun sourcing ingredients, learning new techniques.”

Clad in crisp white shirt, vape in hand, the man, who steered away from the family business in his 20s is discerning yet quick to decide on what to say, or do—much like the way he handles his life. And since rumination always comes before making decisions, Victor prides himself in not having regrets.

“I don’t look at my life and make lists,” he says. “I look at things as a whole. To go and say and pinpoint this one moment as a regret, I’m kinda fuzzy on that. The fact that I even tried it means that I’m not going to regret it.”

He shares a story to illustrate his point: One time, he and a family member tried to start  an internet service provider venture during the dot-com boom. It failed.  “We crashed and burned, lost a little bit of money on the whole thing,” Consunji recalls. “But do I regret it? No. I learned a lot of valuable business lessons from that venture, a lot of which guide me today.”

He says danger always walks alongside risk-taking: “You have to have a very healthy respect for the situation you’re in. You’ve accepted that scenario, and you know exactly what could happen and what might not happen. And you go through it and you say, ‘Look I made the decision, I might as well embrace it.’”

He adds, “I tend to look at the benefit first, and if the benefit is what I want to do, then I almost consider the risk and the cost as a problem to be solved, not a hindrance.”

Finding stable footing

On the topic of embracing moments, Victor has learned to acclimatize to situations. For instance, he is a self-confessed introvert, and yet his duties require him to meet different people—his last name somehow ushered him into a certain kind of spotlight, one he doesn’t take too seriously.

The scion thinks of the attention like the way his family does: that they’d rather be known for their accomplishments and the good that they do. “I’d go as far as saying we don’t even mind being known for our mistakes,” he says, “we learn from that. It’s not like we go and actively seek this kind of thing.” Yes, he has an Instagram account, which he admits is filled with “some really corny jokes, corny hashtags,” but that’s about it.

“A very small fraction of my life is actually visible in the public sphere,” he expounds. “And I tend to try to keep it that way. It’s not an active, conscious decision, but it’s more of my personality. I find my life interesting to me because I’m doing the things I want to do. I don’t understand how that might be interesting to other people.”

Photo SCOTT WOODWARD

But whether he likes it or not, his life is fascinating to many people. Case in point: his recent separation from former beauty queen and entrepreneur Maggie Wilson, after almost 11 years of marriage. Maggie made the announcement on September 27, through her Instagram account, @wilsonmaggie.

The statement wrote, in part, “We will always love and support each other no matter what. We will always be family as we share our beautiful son, Connor, together. We have remained really good friends and partners and will continue to do so. Both of us want nothing more than for each other to be happy.”

The post, as of press time, has almost 40,000 likes, and some news outlets still talk about it. One has to wonder how a self-confessed introvert handles a break-up as public as this one. “I think of it as another era, another step in life,” he says after a long pause. Then, a jester comes out, not for the first time in this interview: “For a guy that wants to do everything…so, in this case, why not be in this situation, too, right? Something I haven’t tried before.” He lets out a chuckle, and turns serious.

 “Of course there are a lot of changes,” he adds, tangibly careful yet certain. “It’s a very big step in a different direction. I don’t see it as a negative thing. It’s not ideal, of course. But I look at the future, and I say, between the choice of being in a situation that goes down a certain path I’m not comfortable with, and being in a situation where the opportunities open up, I think I would rather take the more positive situation.”

Photo SCOTT WOODWARD

Throughout the interview, we noticed Victor is fond of analogies. The civil engineering graduate uses one to put into words how he feels about the split, conjuring the image of a venn diagram: “I think it’s like if you picture a life with certain circles intersecting, and you now have to kind of cut out a portion of that. Everything else sort of floods in to fill that void. Re-adjusting to this new balance of life, that kind of throws things off a little bit. You have to find again new, stable footing. Everybody, no matter who it is, has a base from which everything is launched.”

Then, the builder goes on to use the analogy of a bahay kubo. A traditional bahay kubo, he says, has stilts—some kubos have a lot of stilts, some have few.

 “What happens is when someone’s life is propped up with very few key components, and you cut one of those stilts, then it affects the whole house,” he explains. “The whole house begins to tilt and becomes unstable. On the other hand, for the people that built a solid foundation, you cut one stilt and it makes no difference. I’m not saying it doesn’t make any difference, I’m saying that it has very little effect on the stability of the house. That’s kind of like the situation here. You know, you try to focus on what’s important so your life doesn’t go off kilter.”

That the relationship has always been of public interest from the beginning—apart from TV, online, and magazine features, they post snippets of their life on their IGs alone, where Maggie has more than 700,000 followers, and Vic has more than 70,000—doesn’t bother Victor so much.

Photo SCOTT WOODWARD;

“To be honest, I don’t really consider myself a public person,” he shrugs, and explicates. “Okay, fine, growing up, I know a lot of people around in social circles and stuff like that, but I don’t see what happened as anything being particularly special. Right? A lot of my other friends have broken up. I don’t rank this as being any more special than what say other friends have gone through. It basically got it’s fleeting, what five seconds, of tsismis.”

He continues:I mean, at the end of the day, if someone says, ‘What’s Vic known for?’ They’re not gonna be like, ‘Oh, he’s known for having a break-up.’ No. He’s known for having this development company, or for having done these sports, or these fundraisers. Even as I go through my business partners and the people I work for, the conversation about this lasted all of 30 seconds, before we moved on to the remaining topics at hand.”

Father and son

At many points during the interview, Victor repeatedly mentions he focuses on what challenges him and what’s important, especially during the last few months.

And what really is important to him right now? We ask. Without blinking, he mentions Connor, his and Maggie’s only child.

“His world, of course, will adjust,” he reflects. “It’s not an unfamiliar thing. I myself didn’t necessarily grow up in a whole household. And part of that is what I bring to the table: being able to see situations and take advantage of what good might come out of it vs. wallowing. There is no victim in this situation. There’s no point in saying, ‘This happened, and I can’t do something else.’ No. Honestly, it’s more like, ‘All right, it has happened, now let’s move forward.’”

He sees himself in Connor, he shares with us, as he turns pensive: “He’s a bit of a gentle soul. He’s a little sensitive. I see a lot of myself in him when I was his age, scared to take risks, scared to get hurt. When things got challenging and hard, I was scared to make that extra push. That feeling of potential frustration of, ‘What if I can’t do it?’ For me, that changed somewhere in my early 20s, late teens. But yeah, right now, he hasn’t quite made that transition yet. He’s still very conscious of the risks involved in trying.”

Although, the father-and-son relationship has always been there, Victor says he treats Connor like a buddy, a friend, with whom he can exchange stories about his day and his adventures.

“I try to treat him as an equal, where if he tries to do things, or if I’m doing something, I’d see if I can encourage him to join,” he says. “You share a little bit about your life, and they share a little bit about their life with you. And right now, because he’s nine, the imbalance is a little bit there: I have to share more of my life with him, rather than him sharing his life with me. He does share his life with me, too. We talk about all kinds of things.”

While he says the relationship of the family as a whole is “fine,” the shift to this new set of circumstances requires effort. And with this revelation, he looks back at his life’s overhaul all those years ago, and wanders loudly through his thoughts:

“You know when you live a—I hate to call it this, but it’s kind of the case—little bit of a high-octane, independent life, and then transition to being a father, it’s partly responsibility, partly care, partly trying to like teach values, and trying to hope for the best in imprinting whatever I consider good characters and traits to my son. That’s, I think for any father, a challenging endeavor, maybe the most challenging endeavor. The one thing that I desperately want is for him to be independent and able to stand on his own two feet. The question is when does that job start and end? It doesn’t really have a beginning, and I don’t really think it has an end. And so when I look at it, I am keenly aware nowadays that the activities I take have an impact on this individual for decades, potentially for life.”

Lana Johnson, VCDC chief of marketing and PR, tells us that Connor also got the entrepreneurial spirit from his father and late grandfather, David Consunji, founder of construction conglomerate DMCI.

“Connor makes artisan soaps,” Lana reveals. “He makes them on his own, and he sells them. He’s very serious about it. The money he makes, he uses to buy toys for his friends. He’s unaware of the family and who they are, so he aims to be a millionaire in five years.”

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Victor laughs at the statement, and quips, “That means in five years, I can retire.”

Such is life

Does retirement ever visit your thoughts? We flippantly ask the man who recently launched a new brand, is the first Filipino to have ever finished the North Pole Marathon, and is now looking for his next business venture—and next ultra-race.  

“My definition of retirement is basically getting to do what you want to do, and I mean in every aspect: work is what you want to do, your activities are what you want to do, your time is yours,” he answers.

Isn’t that happening now? We revert.  

“And there’s a bit of a conundrum, right? By that very definition, technically I’m already retired. And so I say to that, I’ll never retire. I’ll always want to do something to improve upon something, to solve some kind of problem.”

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Currently, he’s working on his new brand, Vie for VCDC, where Vie was taken from the famous French adage, C’est la vie, meaning “Such is life.” It’s a fitting way to, as Victor would call it, start moving forward.

“I don’t think that we would’ve come up with this brand if this situation didn’t arise, partly because the realization that everything that we do comes back and is all part of your life.”

He concludes, “You have to have a little bit of fun with things, and see the bright side, and be optimistic. And say, ‘Well, what’s the purpose of my life?’ The purpose of my life wasn’t that— wasn’t what happened [in my family]. The purpose of my life is for my son, the purpose of my life is for the community. The purpose of my life is also for just my general state of mind, of being able to look back and say, ‘You know what, I regret nothing. I’ve done what I want to do, and I touched some people along the way. I’ve been a positive influence to a few people.’ Can I live with that? Yeah, I can live with that.”

Text BAM ABELLON
Grooming TIN ALBANO

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