Erika Mison is the talk show host, Making a Difference, in the Philippines. She is also the founder of Helping Heart Organization and a member of the Local Youth Development Council of Muntinlupa City. In her talk show, Erika centers the discussion around youth engagement in social development in the Philippines. She interviewed a range of people from youth activists to older adults working to bring changes to the Pilipino society.
[Below is interview’s transcript which is edited for clarity.]
Q: You are the host of making a difference. When did you start the show?
Erika: It was around late 2019. When we were under quarantine here in the Philippines, around April, the radio station reached out [to me]. They said, “since we are a digital radio station and you have a good internet connection, we decided to push through with the show.” I’m the first young anchor they have in the radio station. That’s how it started.
I’ll be celebrating my anniversary next month, and I’m already in my fourth season. My show is called “Making a Difference.” I had a hard time thinking about what show to do. I came up with the show because I wanted to showcase what the youth is doing here in the Philippines, how they’re helping others, making a difference, and making the change here in their country. I also want to educate my viewers. Right now, my viewers are very young. They range from high school to university students, even young professionals. I aim to educate the youth about what’s going on and what’s happening. Just to shed some light on those who are helping out change what’s going on here in the Philippines.
I am very much involved in our community. I see firsthand that a lot of youth that they’re helping out. They’re going to the ends of the earth just to make that change. I wanted to help them out. By doing this platform, they could share their stories, they can even ask for donations, or they can get volunteers as well. That’s what my show was about.
Q: Why are you interested in youth and youth engagement in social development? Why not something else?
Erika: As cliche as it sounds, youth are the future. It starts with us. It’s important. I know from a lot of my guests that we love our country. We love the Philippines. We want to see things grow. That’s why many of us are trying our best as early as now to make that change. That’s why I’m focused on the youth in my sector. We have that voice. I could say we have the time as well. We have so much energy, so why not do something? Why not make a difference?
Q: What type of topics do you cover in your show?
Erika: I started for the first two seasons; all of my guests were below 30 years old. Most of them are in youth organizations. I would interview the founders of the youth organizations. I’ve had a couple of episodes whose I interviewed used to work in government and volunteer under the Girl Scout and the Boy Scouts of the Philippines.
Then come season three, I decided to branch out. People say that people who are older than you know more than you know. They’ve been through a lot. They’re wiser. I decided to branch out even more. Those who are above the youth sector serve as an inspiration. Those are the guests so far that I have on the show.
Q: How do you know that, in season one, you want to focus on A and, in season two, you want to focus on B? How do you plan it?
Erika: This is my first time doing this. I don’t have a background in journalism. My course is different. I studied consular and diplomatic affairs. It’s different from what I’m doing now.
For the first, if I remember correctly, I just wanted to highlight the youth organizations. Then for season three, that’s when I started branching out and inviting those above the youth sector. Now, in season four, I have a team with me. For the first season, it was just me. But now I have a team with me. We have a calendar of events. Today is international happiness day. We decided to focus on that. We invited youth organizations that mainly revolve around giving back and giving smiles to their fellow youth.
This season is more creative. I’m basing it on the calendar of events. Just like the start of the month, in commemoration of women’s month, we invited a young woman to share her thoughts about being a woman here in the Philippines. Season four is more creative since I have a team with me, and they can help me out with the research.
Q: I would like to ask you about the Local Youth Development Council. You’re just reelected to the local council. So why are you interested in running the election?
Erika: As I mentioned a while ago, I took a consular and diplomatic affair. Even if I’m doing something different now, I still want to pursue my course. That’s why I’ve been involved here in our community. I just started a youth organization. In this community, it’s the first time in history that we have youth organizations, and one of them is mine. From there, I started spearheading or exceeding the other three youth organizations as well. I work hand in hand with people here in the Philippines. There are young elected officials, so they work with the government. They represent the youth. I work hand in hand with them in our community. Since this is the first time in history that we have youth organizations in this community, I want to see this grow.
They told me that they invited all youth organizations in the city for the elections. I remember there were around 200 plus youth organizations here in the city. It’s divided into nine sectors. My youth organization is focused on health. I wasn’t planning on running per se. But those who met me during the elections were telling me just to try to strike the run. You never know what happened. I did. We had one whole day so that they can decide to vote on the representatives. During that day, we had to say our plans and why we wanted to run. I wanted to represent my community because it was the first time it was happening in our community. I won the elections.
And just last year, we held another election. We had to do elections again. I was not planning on running. I had no plans at all. They were telling me to go ahead, try, and run. I did it again; I ran. Just last Monday, we had our oathtaking with the mayor.
So just a very quick, brief background. I don’t think I mentioned this. It’s mandated by the law here in the Philippines that all cities should have a Local Youth Development Council. Those council representatives are in charge of planning activities for the youth, depending on what pillar you’re in. We’re supposed to craft a plan. Once the plan is crafted, it will go down to the youth organizations and the other representatives. This plan is actually in line with the city development plan. So that’s my task as a representative.
Q: You mentioned that you did not plan to run for the Local Youth Development Council. What motivated you to run for the council?
Erika: This was the first time that this was happening in the community. I’ve been hearing stories from people saying that it’s great to have your community on board. We’re so happy that you’re all active. The volunteers and the officers have been trying to reach out to our community. They’re just so happy that there’s a new set of young elected officials plus our youth organization. They’re so happy that we’re on board. So, hearing those stories just made me want to go for it. Again, I’m doing this for my community; I want to represent the community. I want to see this grow. So that’s what made me want to run.
Q: How do you manage your time to run a show and work at the Council?
Erika: With the radio station, I’m a host. So, my show is every Saturday from 3 pm to 4 pm Manila time. For the first three seasons, I will do everything on my own. I would do the research. I would invite guests and then host the show at the same time. Now I have a team with me; I oversee everything. They’re the ones who do the research. We invite the guests. They even write the script the guide. So now it’s just more of monitoring. I think that’s where my leadership skills come in.
And with the council, we only meet four times a year, so that’s quite groovy. We’ve already crafted a plan, which was already accepted. So, I think we’re just waiting for it to be adopted. That’s what I do right now.
Q: Is that challenging in the Philippines for young women like you to start or run an initiative?
Erika: No, I don’t think it’s hard. I think it’s more of giving them that push. I feel like there are a few people who are nervous about taking the first step. They overthink things. They think, what if this happens, or what if it doesn’t go? It’s not difficult to start anything. But it’s more of taking the first step. That’s also another reason why I’m doing what I’m doing. Hopefully, it inspires those surrounding me to get or to take that leap of faith.
I tell those who asked me, how are you? How did you start doing? How are you continuing what you’re doing? Of course, I have challenging days, but that’s completely normal. I guess it’s more of accepting everything and just also enjoying doing what you’re doing. It’s your passion.
Q: I have learned that some women who run their initiatives on social media experience online bullying and so on. Have you experienced that?
Erika: For myself, so far, no. Thankfully! I’ve seen a lot of those. I spoke to my team for my show just a week ago, and I told them that the media outlet is powerful. If we use it wisely, then that’s great. That’s amazing. When it’s used, not in a good way, then that’s where everything just falls. When it comes to bullying, all I could do is listen to them and be there for them. I have to be that rock for them. Nobody deserves to be bullied. It’s been crazy how online bullying now affects you mentally. It’s important to be mentally stable because that’s how you’re going to work., Thankfully, I have not experienced it, but I have seen it.
Q: When you put the content on social media, not everyone agrees with your content. In Cambodia, for example, some young women experienced some harsh or negative comments on their content. Have you experienced that in the Philippines?
Erika: I would receive just a couple of messages that those messages try to bring me down, such as ‘you’re doing so much, and you’re not focusing enough or need to do this and that.’ Those are the only comments that I’ve been receiving. I try to see them from a positive perspective. I try to understand where the person is coming from. Some of the comments, if you read it, they’re looking out for you. They’re giving suggestions; I guess it’s just how they worded it, and it’s how they see it. That’s how I take them.
I think my comments in general as feedback. Even my parents give me comments when it comes to my show, such as ‘Oh, you know, we suggest you do this, and that.’ That’s fine for me because it’s for my growth. That’s how I see things. So far, there were not many negative comments, thankfully. If ever I do receive in the future, I’m just going to miss this. I’m just going to try to ignore those comments, continue to move forward, and focus on my goals.
Q: Did you talk to your family about those negative comments?
Erika: I don’t recall telling them. For me, I could take it. If I could deal with something, then that’s fine. I don’t think I’ve ever shared that with my parents. Behind my back, they love the show. They give me the suggestion, such as ‘maybe for this episode, you could interview this bunch or this organization.’ They support it 100%.
Q: That’s wonderful. I have on the that. Do you have any messages for young people who want to engage in social development?
If you want to start something, by all means, go ahead. If you want to continue the passionate project, by all means, go. Don’t let anything stop you. Don’t let people stop you. You focus on yourself. Don’t forget to take care of yourselves. We’re going through a pandemic right now. Health was taken for granted, especially your mental health. Those are the only two things that I want to share.
Q: Thank you so much, Erika, for joining me today.
Erika: Thank you so much for having me.
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