This Teenager from the Province Founded His Own Media Organization
Kristian Rivera is a freshman college student at St. Columban College in Zamboanga del Sur. He founded his own media organization and took in more than 40 volunteers who write, edit, and create content. Apart from producing news, The Spectrum also finds and chronicles notable stories from Filipinos. It was born partly because of the pandemic, but also because of the information gap Rivera saw in the countryside.
Growing up in Zamboanga del Sur, Rivera says there was very little room to succeed.
“While I was growing up, there weren't a lot of opportunities especially when I graduated. Here in the province, opportunities are scarce. Growing up, I learned to be independent because I was the youngest in the family. My parents were not the type who would closely guide me all throughout my life,” Rivera tells Esquire Philippines.
Rivera’s parents, who are both in their 60s, are now retired. “My father is a retired civil engineer. My mom is also a retiree, she worked for the city government as an employee at the city hall. They both stay at home.”
Rivera studied in public school from elementary to high school. Rivera dreamed of going to the University of the Philippines, but he was not able to get the required scores for the quota course he applied for.
“It’s my life’s dream to leave this place and study in a different location, a different campus.”
Rivera has three other siblings, two of whom are already married, and one studying in Cebu. “My parents are really trying hard to support my sister’s education in Cebu, it is costly.”
During the pandemic, Rivera was inspired to volunteer for various causes. “I don’t like the feeling of being stuck at home and doing nothing, so I thought of doing volunteer works. I applied at various organizations, and that’s how everything started. I discovered a lot of things about myself.
His passion for volunteering pushed him to find like-minded people who would be willing to work for the community. When he sent out a call for volunteers, he did not expect there would be a lot of positive feedback.
Kristian Rivera in His Hometown, Pagadian, Zamboanga del Sur
“The volunteers of The Spectrum come from all over the Philippines. A lot of people applied, especially young people, especially students. There were over 100 applicants, I never expected it.” At one time, the volunteers working for the organization peaked at over 40, but now, Rivera has 24 volunteers working with him.
“Since this is the first time for me to found a startup, there are many challenges, such as volunteers leaving for various reasons.”
Rivera was once an editorial writer, a sportswriter, and a radio broadcaster at school, which is why founding a media organization is something close to his heart.
“People deserve critical reporting, especially about political issues happening not only in the Philippines but also around the world.”
As a media organization, The Spectrum takes national issues and breaks them down into digestible content for consumers. It also produces original stories in Filipino and English. Rivera also took time to register his startup with the National Youth Commission. “Naisipan ko po na pagkatapos ko mag-graduate, ipagpapatuloy ko po ito. People deserve critical reporting, especially about political issues happening not only in the Philippines but also around the world.” Rivera refers to abuses of human rights, geopolitics, and other pressing issues.
At first, The Spectrum covered mostly positive stories that had an impact. They interviewed a mother who lost her job, an old lady who sells handwoven fans. One of the most meaningful projects for Rivera was a documentary about a doctor’s experience in Mindanao. They asked what it’s like being a doctor in Mindanao amid the pandemic and asked her about how she’s going to survive.
Many people are surprised to find out that despite being a freshman student, he has already interned for numerous news organizations, government bodies, and prominent NGOs in the country, which includes the Senate of the Philippines, FOI Philippines, Now You Know, ASEAN Youth Forum, and Human Rights Watch.
“Interning for these organizations was done on my own initiative, it was not part of the school curriculum,” says Rivera. “I really wanted to dive into the real world. I challenged myself for that. I am studying political science, why shouldn’t I be more involved in the public sector?”
Currently, Rivera has two active internships. One is at FOI Philippines under the Presidential Communications Group where he interns as a policy researcher, and another is at Anino, a game development and mobile marketing company based in Makati, where he works as a social media marketing and customer support.
“I Am Afraid No One Will Hire Me Because of My Course.”
Political Science was Rivera’s first choice when he applied to colleges and universities. But it has also become a source of anxiety for him. “I am afraid no one will hire me because of my course. Iniisip ko po na pagka-graduate ko, magiging limited din yung opportunity because of my course. That’s why I applied for so many internships because I know I need to train myself independently. Even though I took up political science, I would still have the capacity to apply at private companies. I want to prove that Political Science students are not just made for the public sector.”
There Are a Lot of Dreamers But Opportunities are Scarce
According to Rivera, there are many young people in his community who are looking for opportunities to grow, but there are not enough opportunities to enable this.
“Here where I live, I can say that opportunities are scarce. I witness my friends telling me there are no opportunities. There are no organizations, no initiatives, no volunteer programs. There is a lack of space for youth like me who dream of reaching more for their future. Walang training ground.
“Naisip ko kasi na when I graduate, the arena in the open world is going to be very competitive. I’ve been living here in Pagadian, Zamboanga del Sur for many years, and I can attest to that. Where I live, there are not very many connections to institutions and universities. In other cities in the Visayas and Mindanao, they have educational exchange programs. Here, there are none. This limits capacity to reach more and achieve more.”
“Mababa ang Sweldo Dito.”
Rivera was not disparaging the state of life in the province, but merely stating his observations when he said life where he lives is more difficult than in other places.
“Yung mga sweldo, even the salaries of my siblings, mababa po talaga dito sa Pagadian. Kahit po yung hospital facilities namin dito are struggling. Even with agriculture and other industries, it’s like there is very little that brings pride to our city.”
Rivera also plans on moving to another place, but feels cultural traditions, apart from financial constraints, are holding him back.
“When I was still in senior high, I really wanted to move, even amid the pandemic. But my parents told me there’s this 'close family ties' among Filipinos that I should honor. They said I should stay here in Pagadian so I could take care of them.”
Rivera hesitates, but continues.
“Sabi nila baka hindi ko makaya o hindi daw ako mag-survive kapag umalis ako. Na-affect po ako. That’s why I promised myself that when I graduate, I will work hard to succeed.”
Kristian Rivera hopes to become an intelligence officer someday working for embassies or in government service. But he also wants to pursue his passion of serving those in need. He plans to continue growing The Spectrum even after he graduates.