SUNSHINE LICHAUCO DE LEON sits down with the veteran international news anchor who put the Filipino talent in the spotlight.
Every weekday morning, Filipino broadcast journalist Rico Hizon copresents BBC World News’ general news program Newsday and anchors its Asia Business Report.
With his image and voice broadcast to over 300 million households worldwide, Rico says he “raises the Filipino flag” every day he goes to work. And he does so with pride and purpose.
What made you decide to become a journalist?
When I was young, my mother used to love watching the news and she would always discuss it with me. That got me interested—by third grade I told her I wanted to be a reporter on TV. I started joining public speaking competitions in school and I kept winning so I continued.
You worked in the GMA newsroom for years before you got your first break. What role did this experience play in your success?
My first job was as a production assistant. I started at the very bottom but I knew that was a good start because I would experience everything and would know the whole system. I did whatever they asked me to do—from printing scripts and writing general news to buying food in the convenience store.
Why did you decide to specialize in business news?
At the time, nobody wanted to do business reporting—nobody cared about the stock market in the Philippines. So I said, “Let me specialize in this and develop it.” Even if my stories would not air in the early days, I still worked hard and kept trying.
How did you make it in BBC News?
After seven years with CNBC Asia-Pacific, I got a call from the BBC’s Business News Editor. They told me they wanted me to anchor their daily business program Asia Business Report. They said they liked my conversational anchoring and incisive interview style. I got goose bumps being given this huge responsibility to report the news to 350 million viewers worldwide. Ten years on, I still feel honored and privileged to sit on the anchors chair and represent the Philippines.
What makes BBC News very credible and respectable?
BBC News is known for its impartiality, accuracy and fairness. We give a full and fair view of people and cultures, and we act independently of all interests and aspire to the highest ethical and editorial standards.
What do you think makes your reporting so successful? Do you feel you have a trademark style?
I’m always upbeat and excited. And whenever I write a story it’s very basic. If I talk about the trade surplus, I always discuss it for those who don’t understand financial news to movers and shakers.
How do you command the attention of your interviewee? How do you build rapport with them?
I try to get to know them personally. I tell them, the interview is just like a conversation that we’re having at a coffee shop. At that point, I make them feel comfortable, and from there they open up about their ideas, thoughts, and insights on issues. Journalism is about telling stories and setting things right. During my three minutes of air time with them, I try to squeeze out every bit of information that will give me and my viewers a better perspective of issues.
What makes you most proud about the Philippines?
We have a great culture, great tourism spots, and very hospitable people. But there is something else that makes us special—it’s malasakit (concern). It’s about caring, and about family. We care for each other even if we are very far away from each other.
Many Filipinos look up to you as a role model. How does this influence your life?
I’m a very active leader with the Filipino community back in Singapore. It’s about helping them, giving back, and teaching them new skills. My mission is to be an inspiration to Filipinos so that they can aspire to be better people, and work hard. Although I feel that I have been doing my own little part to raise Filipino pride around the world for the last nine years, eventually, I want to go back to my country and help the Philippines.
When you think of the political and business leaders you have interviewed, from Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to Bill Gates, what, if anything, do they have in common?
I can see that they are very sincere in what they do—in helping people, helping their countries progress—whether it be for their country or their company. And they are very humble and down to earth. I have learned the importance of keeping your feet on the ground as success can be a temporary thing and you have to handle it with care.
What’s your typical working day like? e.g. Who chooses the clothes you wear? What’s your typical breakfast?
Wake up at 3:30 a.m., in the newsroom by 4:30 a.m. and finish my day at about 3 p.m. It is a full day as I anchor two global news programs. My wife Melannie gets to choose the suits, shirts, and ties I wear (Hope you like them!). Breakfast is either noodles with egg and luncheon meat or kaya toast with egg and iced Milo. These are typical Singaporean breakfasts.
What are your top three favorite places in the Philippines?
Manila, Boracay, and Pampanga. If I’m just in Manila, you can either find me in a shopping mall (I love to shop), a bookstore, or my favorite Filipino restaurant.