For a host of a TV public service show, Jeffrey Espiritu looks more like he has just stepped out of a page in a magazine for yuppies. With gel-spiked hair, polo shirt in colorful hues, and a bubbly personality, he is mistaken by many people as an entertainment show host.

But while Espiritu may crack jokes when in character, he is dead serious with his job.

Espiritu is host of Follow Up, the public affairs show on RPN-9 that follows up on citizens claims on government offices. Because of the shows acronym, Espiritu is known as “Mr. Fu.”

Espiritu says he has always been cheerful and energetic, even when he was still a student at the University. His approachable and easygoing aura helped him become the first Communication Arts student to head the Faculty of Arts and Letters Student Council.

During his term, “Mr. Fu” initiated a lot of school programs, among them was making the application to major courses for incoming sophomore students easier. The Artlets grievance committee also shone that time, he says.

After finishing his studies in 1999, he worked as a researcher for ABS-CBN’s The World Tonight and later moved to Pulso. But his move to RPN-9 a few months later landed him the job he has always wanted—one in front of the camera.

Once a police beat reporter, he also hosted Direct Line with his former teacher in UST, Marigold Haber. It was then that he became known as Mr. Follow-Up because he personally and literally followed up people’s complaints for them filed before offices such as the Social Security System (SSS). The tag became Mr. “F.U.” or Mr. Fu, an apparent play on his Chinese looks.

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“I’m not Chinese, although I look like one,” Espiritu said.

Direct line to people

Espiritu considers his devotion to public service as rooted on his student council activities in college, where he was also trained to deal with all sorts of persons.

Sometimes, Mr. Fu has to put up with pesky, persistent people, noisy children, and irksome wives who insist that they are the beneficiaries of certain deceased husbands, among other problems, concerning mostly of pension problems with the SSS. This routine may be spleen to some, but never to Mr. Fu.

“I’m the last person to get mad in this organization,” Espiritu said.

His genuine trademark grin does not falter; just like the inexhaustible patience he seems to possess, marking him as one outstanding public service program host.

Unlike other TV hosts, Mr. Fu doesn’t like reading prompters. “It seems more genuine if it’s spontaneous,” he said. Before he goes on-air, Espiritu memorizes all his lines because according to him, reading prompters defeats the purpose of sincerity.

“The news anchor is not the focus here, it’s the people,” he said.

Whenever Espiritu gets recognized by people outside the studio, he makes it a point to ask for their names so that during his show, he can greet them on-air.

He also recalled a very poor man from the province who once approached him and gave him a gift. The man’s father Mr. Fu had helped regain pension from the SSS a few days before. Handing over an imitation perfume to Mr. Fu, a known perfume lover, the man said, “Sir, pasensya na, fake lang po ang kaya ko.”

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That present was among the best he had received, Espiritu said.

Aside from Direct Line (recently reformatted into For M), he also hosts the entertainment segment of Arangkada, News Watch Now, Para Po, a human interest show and Mag-negosyo Tayo.

Sweet success

While not working, Mr. Fu is busy building up his growing mug collection, a hobby he has been into since high school. From mere ceramic containers of beverages, he maximizes the potential of his mug omnibus as he turns them into holders of pens, cellphones, and even the television remote control. Having more than 50 pieces, “they’re scattered all over my place for different purposes,” he said.

Espiritu is also one of the youngest columnists for the tabloid Tanod.

He said he prefers talk shows over investigative reports. And with his new human interest program, Para Po, Mr. Fu has gotten busier. The show presents simple things in a new perspective. “It will stimulate your thought,” he said.

With so much keeping him pre-occupied, it’s a wonder where Mr. Fu gets the energy to stay lively. Aside from his favorite almond-filled chocolates known to produce endorphins, or happy hormones, he said it is the appreciation of people that fuels his every effort to continue his one-of-a-kind public service— committed and earnest, but with a dash of humor. M. J. T. De Lara and J. T. B. Mendoza

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