Today’s newscasts often delve into stories that make TV viewers want to shake their heads, raise their hackles, or cover their eyes in dismay. This is not the case when MJ Marfori comes out for her Celebrity Aksyon segment in the telecast of TV5 Network’s Aksyon Primetime (airing Mondays to Fridays at 6:15pm). Like a proverbial breath of fresh air, the pretty reporter comes out onscreen to dish out the latest goings-on in showbiz while trading witty banter with her colleagues on the show.
While it may seem easy to be just another pretty face on TV, MJ proves her mettle by personally gathering most of her stories. In fact, she seems indefatigable in her search for newsworthy tinseltown tidbits and is often seen skipping from one place to another trying to catch the hottest stars in showbiz for a soundbite or two—and then attending lifestyle events that may run late into the night. She just makes it look easy because she looks good while doing her job.
MJ gives a rundown of her typical workday: “I wake up at 6am and I pray. Then I read the latest local and world stories—this helps me to write my initial advisories and story outlooks for the day. By 10am, I go on the field to cover events then I go back to the newsroom at 4pm to write and edit my story for my segment. By 5:30, I get ready to go oncam for Aksyon Primetime. Afterwards, I might go on the field again at 7pm for a coverage, and I get home at around 9 or 10pm. I then end my day with a prayer and go to sleep,” she laughs.
To be a good reporter, one has to undergo training. Her baby steps started in school, where she would impersonate a top media personality. “I’ve always wanted to be a reporter. I remember back in high school at Poveda, I would always be the reporter during group projects. To spice things up, I would often mimic Sir Mike Enriquez—no joke! That’s how most of my former classmates remember me from high school!” She took up Philippine Mass Media in De La Salle-Taft to continue to become a journalist and landed an internship at a morning show of another network. “At Umagang Kay Ganda, it was my job to go on the field with the segment producer, I also went on camera when they needed a talent for their segments.”
The exposure made her want to pursue her dream, and she applied as a field correspondent for TV5. “It was perfect timing since that was the time MVP (Manny Pangilinan) acquired the station. The rest is history! I’ve been with TV5 for five years,” she grins.
That period also was her baptism of fire, of sorts. “We were just 12 reporters at network back then. So, on-cam agad-agad! I started with the Comelec beat at first, then my boss DJ Sta Ana transferred me to the Security (PNP) and Defense (AFP) beat from 2010 until 2012. We would go to Masbate and check out illegal firearms, war stories, etc. That was interesting,” she muses. “I also did traffic reports for three years for our former Aksyon TV newscast Andar ng mga Balita.”
When the News 5 team expanded, and they were looking for people in the showbiz team, her name came up. “My boss asked me if it interested me. I immediately said yes, since I love pop culture and I also had a background of how it was because of my OJT days. I also don’t mind the extremely long hours during events and I enjoy learning new things about people.”
The long hours also taught her a life lesson: “The challenge is how to balance my life! I’ve had a lot of adjustments especially when I started to work for the first two years. It took me a while to learn that sleep, social and love life are also important, but I’m blessed that the crazy schedule made me a better person as a whole because it challenged me to push myself for the better.”
For those who dream of working in the newsroom, she offers this advice. “You have to naturally love what you do, and never stop learning. Sa trabaho na ito, bawal ang mahiyain!”
The scoop on her lovelife
Aside from her bubbly on-cam personality, her looks have also caught the eyes of fans and sometimes even those of her subjects. During the press conference for the Chippendales show in Manila, the musclemen all but begged for her phone number. She brushed them off lightly and laughingly; a million other girls would have killed to be in her position at that exact moment.
She unwittingly found herself in the spotlight last year, too, via a surprise proposal staged by her boyfriend Oscar Oida while on a trip to New York City. She recounts the event with misty eyes. “I came from a gimmick with my BFFs all the way in Soho the night before, and we ended up really late. Oscar usually asks if we could go home early, but that night he was cool with going home at 3am! Next day, we woke up at 9am for our planned itinerary to stroll around and shoot at Central Park and to meet his friends naman. I was still woozy from intoxication but excited since my friend Nelly, also tagged along and we would also sort of work out what we consumed the night before.”
She says she was still clueless when they got to Bow Bridge and none of his guy friends were around. “I just went along with the video-taking at the spot with what I thought were random people appreciating the great weather and scenery. It was not until Oscar approached the balloon lady on the bridge who had a red heart balloon that I sort of got the hint. Through all this, I was in denial!” she squeals. “I am so not the cheesy type, but when he did get the balloon for me, I felt the chill on top of the chilly weather! Hindi ako prepared!” She laughs, saying, “Wala akong makeup at may hang-over pa ako! The next thing I knew, I was crying—so not me—and I kept repeating, ‘Oh my God! No way?’ and then… everything went blank…” The where and who details were gone at that moment. All I was aware of was that he was proposing already! I did not even know he had a ring! It was so beautiful! I am so brusko, but at that time I felt like a lady!”
She adds, “I can’t believe he chose my favorite city! He even had a band plus roses and balloons, along with a photographer! Dahil ang sweet niya and he is the perfect gentleman… At that moment I did not mind the PDA and I kissed him after I said ‘Yes!’” The happy couple plans to wed in Manila in January 2016.
She reveals that they met through a common friend who was also a journalist for TV5 back in 2010. “Her name is Andrea Bautista. Oscar would hang out with us quite often after that, even if it was not work-related. I was not really looking for a relationship back then so we started out as friends but it was obvious he liked me!” She jokes. “He’s a gentleman, so eventually we started dating. We are blessed since our networks are very supportive (Oscar works as a news reporter for GMA Network). They even congratulated us when we got engaged!” she smiles.
Not a puff piece
She is on her toes (and in stilettos at that) most days, to do interviews and a radio show on weekends (Showbiz FM from 7 to 8 pm) on 92.3 Newsfm. The busy schedule and late nights may take a toll on anybody’s appearance, but MJ is unfazed. She treats herself to a massage, she says, and offers info on her beauty regimen. “I do this thing called Thermolypolisis at Allura, where you go inside a heated capsule for 40 minutes. It detoxifies your whole body. I also do facial silk peel once a month at The Skin Specialist by Dra. Jean Marquez to make sure there won’t be any dead skin on my face.”
While looks may matter when it comes to getting a job in front of the camera, MJ is no puff piece. As of press time, she is readying for her reportage on the Pope’s visit to the country. To date, then, her most memorable coverage would be one where she was assigned to be Justin Bieber’s close-in journalist for his Tacloban outreach. “I got to spend a whole day covering his every move in Tacloban close up. Despite all the issues, personally I could say he has a good heart and he’s a charitable superstar!”