by Lady FELE MANN
Tansy Sheppard with Fele
Fele with Captain Roger Bilton
Fele and King Roman on Sea Princess
TANSY SHEPPARD from England, fondly known as “Barbie Doll of DIAMOND PRINCESS”, one of the magnificent cruise ships operated by PRINCESS CRUISES, is one of the loveliest and most interesting people I have met during the 9 cruises I have had since 2008. She is one of the dynamic crew staff of DIAMOND PRINCESS where we boarded and sailed during the 19-Day Cruise to Asia and Australia from November 14 to December 3, 2013. Tansy, along with other crew staff enthusiastically attended to almost 3 thousand passengers on board the ship wanting to relax and escape completely from the hustle and bustle of life and to explore the fantasy world that cruising could offer. Roman, my enduring husband and soul mate for 38 years and counting, were among the excited passengers on board longing once more for a “CRUISE OF A LIFETIME.” Our fondest dream was fulfilled beyond all expectations.
Tansy is one of God’s perfect works of art. She has an angelic face like a barbie doll - big, happy, expressive blue eyes, friendly, pleasant and sensitive to the needs of the passengers on board the ship. Her charming personality radiates and cannot be ignored any time. Admirations like, “She is so beautiful like a doll!” are usually heard from passengers who watch her while hosting a variety of events, game shows, trivia, sporting activities, line dancing, among others. She commits herself to making people enjoy their cruise and this can be gleaned by the enthusiasm she puts into her work. She clearly stands out from among the many crew staff, not only for her charm, elegance and beauty, but also in her manner of dealing with the passengers. One beautiful morning while watching her talked cheerfully to the passengers, a brilliant idea came to my mind, to interview her. I exclaimed to myself and so I made all efforts to see and interview her before the end of our cruise. I made enquiries about her character from among the other crew staff and what I’ve heard was all commendable and satisfying.
Tansy Sheppard was also one of the topics of passengers at dinner time in Vivalde and Pacific Moon restaurants as well as in the Horizon Court where foods galore were displayed during meal times. My longing to meet and interview her was intensified. With her stunning beauty, good moral values and commitment to God and humanity, our readers will surely be happy and satisfied to know about her life.
One evening, I was excited to find Tansy at the door of Princess Theatre happily welcoming passengers for the production show performed by International singers, dancers and the Princess Band. “Oh, it’s the Barbie Doll!” I exclaimed and to my surprise she gladly stretched her arms widely and gave me a big hug as if I were her long lost friend. “What’s you name?” I’m Fele Mann, my husband Roman, is already inside waiting for me. This must be providential because I dearly wanted to interview you for the Timpuyog Journal as the Australian Correspondent and in the Philippine Community Herald Newspaper as the Northern Territory of Australia columnist. “Tomorrow during my break time, I’ll meet you at the Wheelhouse Bar” she assured me. That night at the balcony of our stateroom, I thoroughly enjoyed the soothing cool breeze of the Pacific Ocean, the magnificence of God’s creation and the brilliant prospect of featuring His perfect work of art in the person of Tansy Sheppard.
“You accepted my offer for interview, thank you Tansy, I can hardly believe it, am I dreaming?” I kidded her after we sat down at the bar. Her beautiful expressive eyes brightly radiated. “No, you are not dreaming, it’s real - so be happy!”
“So you are a writer, I’m proud of what you do,” she exclaimed.
“I’m truly honored to have met you and I hope we will always be friends even at the end of the cruise!” she patted my shoulder with sister affection. I was deeply touched and for the first time in my years of cruising since 2008, I experienced pure joy bonding with a Caucasian and trusting each other right away in so short a time. Good discernment was working at its best for both of us.
Let us examine Tansy’s personal life for a moment to know her better and why she has great affection and admiration for the Philippines and the Filipino people. It’s not surprising considering that Filipinos all over the world have made and continue to make a good name for the Philippines be it in Boxing (Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire), International Beauty Pageants, International Sports including Ice Skating in Russia, Singing, Acting, Movies, among many others.
Tansy is from England and was born on January 7 in London. She adores her parents, Merlin Sheppard and her Mom, Margaret, and her 2 brothers, Lyndon and Tyson. She is the only daughter and whom God has gifted with charm, beauty, intelligence and pleasing personality that can capture one’s admiration wherever she goes. She studied at St. Mark’s Primary School, finished High School at Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School, West Kent College in 2007 and at Metropolitan University in 2010 with a Degree in Bachelor of Arts (with honors) major in Photography.
“What jobs did you do in England before you joined the DIAMOND PRINCESS as a crew STAR, I mean staff?” She giggled and was amused when she heard the word star intended as a humor. “I worked as a photographer and then came to work for the same job in Princess Cruises for 4 years and then as a crew staff.” The cruise line has gratefully acknowledged her as an asset both as a photographer and as a crew staff for her excellent dedication to duty. We were among the passengers of the Diamond Princess in November-December Cruise to Asia and Australia who nominated Tansy for the “CONSUMATE HOST AWARD”.
Tansy has strongly emphasized she loves her job very much as a crew staff because she gets to travel around the world, meet interesting people from different countries and cultures, and enjoy all the exotic views and sceneries provided by Mother Nature, through God - our Creator. “Do you believe that it is God who created all these things for us to enjoy?” I looked deep into her eyes to discern her relationship with the Almighty. “I do believe most definitely indeed! I am a Christian not only in name but also in deed. As a member of the Baptist Church where we attended services in England with mom and dad, we sincerely praise and thank Him for the many blessings He kindly poured on us. Prayers are a source of our strength in our family. There is no life without God; everything is darkness and it’s no life at all”. Her words were distinctly marked by faith which every Christian who loves God must possess. Her profound declaration of faith was very moving that deeply touched my heart to the core. It reminded me of what a pious preacher preached - “Those who love and revere God who faithfully declare their implicit trust in Him, accompanied by good deeds, are truly people worthy of our trust, love and confidence. On the other hand, those who have no God in their lives are like chickens without heads walking in the middle of the street or like a dead man walking aimlessly. Tansy certainly showed that she is worthy of trust because she totally believes that the worst kind of living is when one is totally devoid of spiritual life. Hearing those words from her made me yearn all the more to become her friend for life.
“What blessings have you received from God and how did you repay Him for His graces?”
“God is so generous by giving me a fantastic family and parents who tirelessly encourage me to follow my passion to be true to who I am. I am also proud of having brothers who love me dearly, took good care by guiding me when I nearly followed the wrong path”. Her face clearly showed a deep longing for her family back home in England.
In spite of being brought up in a rich country, Tansy helped the poor people in the third world, including the Philippines. She said that working in the ship and having contact with people around the world has greatly made her a much better person. Before, she was very materialistic but after she came in contact with poor people face to face, that opened her eyes to their sufferings and melted her heart. Amazingly, she felt a providential enlightenment which changed her views in life forever. And when we find people who display a sense of compassion for the poor in all that they do, most of us instinctively trust and admire them. Tansy is definitely one of them. It’s a divine feeling to find people who are solid as a rock in trusting God.
“I can see much better ways to use my money. Whenever I meet people from poor countries - single parents, supporting mothers, starving people lined up in the streets begging money for food or for survival, I help them financially hoping that they will provide their own children or relative with comfort and stability like my mom and dad did for me. I miss them very much!” she sighed with misty eyes.
“My next question is quite personal - are you happily married or happily single?” I laughed while waiting for her witty answer. I suddenly saw gloom in her eyes and after a long while she managed to answer. “I was engaged to a Filipino, a crew staff working on another Princess Cruise ship. We loved each other dearly and I thought I found the right man whom I could call my own and be with him for the rest of my life. After clearing her throat, she confessed her love life story wrapped with a delicate problem which clearly affected her relationship with her boyfriend she called JG. He is a man who can be every woman’s dream for a life partner - kind, loving, thoughtful, dedicated, hardworking and a fine gentleman. We have been together on holidays in Tagaytay, Baguio, Boracay and other wonderful places in the Philippines while we were engaged. JG has fulfilled many of my loftiest dreams except one - getting legally married as husband and wife. JG is not married but he is not free either.” She confessed the real reason after asking me to keep it confidentially until the whole matter is resolved. So, I am not free to divulge this secret in her life story under a vow of secrecy. It’s part of having a character marked by strength and dignity.
“It’s best to leave it all in God’s hands, Tansy. I wish I can help you but only God can do the impossible.” I sighed commiserating with her situation. “But with your deep faith in God, He will come to your rescue in His own time. He will never abandon you; that’s for sure. Miracles happen to those who believe and trust in Him, remember?” Without knowing and as a reflex, we hugged each other tenderly. I just got the answer as to why Tansy became instantly fond of me at the door of Princess Theatre that night. Her fiancé is a Filipino and found great solace in discussing her problem with a Filipina like me. I admired her loyalty to JG, not wanting to get involved with anyone among her suitors until the problem is resolved. That’s unique considering that in this day and age, many women are as changeable as the weather. “Think about what I say and it’s for your own good, Tansy. Meeting the right person sometimes requires a radical change. It’s a daring option but it might just be what you need.” I think she got the message because she was in deep reflection in what I have said.
“Now, let’s talk about the Philippines, my dear, what do you think about the Philippines and the Filipinos in general? How do you describe them based on your dealings with them on the ship and according to your observation?” Her radiant smiles came out again as if she was glad that a tricky topic was pushed away and a delightful topic has taken over. “Oh I love the Philippines very much! It’s a great nation and one of the best countries in the world! It has incredible places to explore that can take our breath away. I admire Filipinos for being industrious, hardworking, loyal to their employers, great dedication to work, courage under pressure, resilience and unparalleled commitment to support their families whatever it takes. Filipinos who have very little in life still manage to smile, so humble and well mannered unlike people in some rich countries who still complain and grumble even if they are already wallowing in luxuries. I respect highly the family and moral values of Filipinos!”
Glowing words like those that I have heard from Tansy about the Philippines and the Filipinos are like a powerful panacea to any illness or pain. It’s a pure joy to hear from foreigner special commendations like she mentioned. “Wow, I love to hear your commendation, Tansy, my beautiful daughter!” I exclaimed heartily. “No, Fele, you are my daughter and I am your mother!” she said laughing. “What? Why? How?” were my puzzled replies. “It should be the other way around - I am your Mommy and you are my baby daughter”. I couldn’t figure out if she was joking or not and why she wanted to be different. She went on to say, “Look at you, my daughter Fele whom I met in Diamond Princess, I think you have very contagious smiles that can light up a room and the people around you. I like to call you my daughter by Immaculate Conception!” We burst out laughing boisterously. “A very funny comedian is born!” I exclaimed and we went on giggling and laughing till my ribs started to hurt. I needed laughter as my best medicine for my terminal illness due to breast cancer. In my heart of hearts, I fervently prayed that God would extend my life longer, if it is His will, so that I can glorify His name through my good works.
Before and after interview with beauteous Tansy Sheppard, her name, memory and our short bonding for 19 days and nights on Diamond Princess cruise have certainly made my ASIAN AND AUSTRALIAN CRUISE 2013 a remarkable experience and a most unforgettable one. Tansy’s glowing success, her trials in life and why she loves the Philippines and the Filipinos are a phenomenal testament of how great our beloved Philippines can be in the eyes of a foreigner gifted with elegance, charm and beauty. And how much more wonderful it would be if all Filipinos, all over the world, join in strong harmony to achieve greater things, wherever they are on the face of the Earth, for GOD’S HONOR AND GLORY!