Just call him Mr. Fu
STARBYTES - Butch Francisco () - May 19, 2005 - 12:00am
From the GMA news and public affairs department, we are already familiar with the names and faces of Susan Enriquez, Jiggy Manicad, Kara David, Sandra Aguinaldo, Cesar Apolinario, Mark Salazar, Tina Panganiban Perez, Raffy Tima and the other young men and women who go on field for both 24 Oras and Saksi.

Over at ABS-CBN, we know Doris Bigornia as the Mutya ng Masa and for sure would recognize in public the faces of its many reporters who do stand-up reports for TV Patrol and Insider.

Over at Channels 5, 9 and 13 are other news reporters who are just as resourceful, as hardworking and as talented, except that we are not very familiar with most of them since they don’t belong to the two rival networks that are pounding each other in the ratings game.

One of them I got to know because he covered the Gawad Urian for Channel 9 last year and did an insightful feature on our critics’ organization. His name is Jeffrey Espiritu – or Mr. Fu to the followers of RPN-9’s news and public affairs programs.

Like most other news reporters on TV, he also took up communication arts (at the University of Santo Tomas), which he finished in 1999. (His initial dream was to become a lawyer, but was inspired by the ABS-CBN coverage of the 1990 earthquake and decided he wanted to go into TV instead).

And like most others on TV, he also had a "godmother" who paved the way for him to join the field of broadcasting and in his case it was Pia Hontiveros of ABS-CBN who became his "sponsor."

Jeffrey met Pia while he was in his senior year in college. Invited to speak at UST by one of the professors, now RPN-9 newscaster Marigold Haber, Pia was easily impressed with Jeffrey who obviously stood out in the crowd during the open forum.

After graduation, he wrote Pia Hontiveros a letter and attached his bio-data. A month later, he received a letter from ABS-CBN and was given his first job assignment – as researcher for The World Tonight, then with Angelo Castro and Tina Monzon Palma. From The World Tonight he moved to Pulso (with Korina Sanchez and Ted Failon) – until the time he had to leave ABS-CBN "since the place was starting to get too crowded." Channel 2 desk reporters who had been waiting in the wings to be pushed in front of the camera were already getting impatient that time and were already demanding station management to put them on-cam. Since the list was long, Jeffrey knew it would take quite a while for his turn to come.

It was then that he decided to move to Channel 9. He had already sent his application there after graduation, but had been asked to wait for six months for a job vacancy. The six months was up and sure enough, there was an opening for him – as an on-cam reporter doing the police beat, which he enjoyed thoroughly because it brought him closer to the masses.

Eventually, he was given his own regular show – Direct Line – which he co-anchors with his former professor Marigold Haber. Direct Line is a public service program that airs on RPN-9 every Monday from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. He was not the first choice for the job. Initially, the network considered Willie Revillame (then out of a job), then Brod Pit (a.k.a. Isko Salvador) and even Quezon City Vice Mayor Herbert Bautista. Unfortunately (but fortunately for Jeffrey) the station couldn’t afford the talent fees of all three and so somebody from production said – why not get somebody from among us? – and the job landed on Jeffrey’s lap.

On Direct Line, he is also known as Mr. Fu and he earned his alias after delivering a spiel comically and somehow the name Mr. Fu just came up. (Mr. Fu could also stand for Mr. Follow-up).

Strangely enough, Jeffrey Espiritu claims he doesn’t have Chinese blood running in his veins (he is De Castro on his mother’s side) and yet he looks Chinese with his fair skin and slanted eyes. In public, among those who recognize him, he is actually more popularly known as Mr. Fu and not Jeffrey Espiritu.

Starting this Sunday at 9:30 a.m., he will get more exposure when his new show – Para Po – begins its telecast. In Para Po, a documentary show, he will be shown riding a jeepney as he looks around for stories of human interest. The premiere episode will feature stories on the evolution of the Philippine jeepney, chain letters (now chain texting) and why men go into body-building.

He is well aware of the fact that his show is up against the more popular lifestyle programs of the two competing networks, but will just be too happy to get even just a small slice of the viewers’ pie. All he cares about is doing a good job and hopefully, the ratings will come in time.

ANGELO CASTRO AND TINA MONZON PALMA BROD PIT DIRECT LINE JEFFREY JEFFREY ESPIRITU MARIGOLD HABER MR. FU PARA PO PIA HONTIVEROS WORLD TONIGHT
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