Anna Fegi: Singing and seeing the world
- Vanessa A. Balbuena () - February 19, 2011 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Cebuana chanteuse Anna Fegi is back home for a much-deserved six-week sojourn after making waves aboard the luxury cruise ship Brilliance of the Seas for the past nine months. Remaining the humble homegrown talent that she is, the world-class performer returns replete with stories and pictures to share, as she did so one recent afternoon with The FREEMAN.

It was in 2008 when Anna auditioned to be a cruise entertainer for the Royal Caribbean International — a prestigious cruise liner that has a fleet of 23 ships including the largest cruise ship in the world named Oasis of the Seas. Among hundreds of Filipino aspirants, it was only she and former lead vocal of The Company, Reuben Laurente, who passed.

So it came to be that she ended a three-contract stint with Hong Kong Disneyland playing Nala to do two things that she loved the most at the same time: sing and see the world!

Anna and Reuben became the featured performers among a cast of 12 coming from Australia, Italy, Albania, Argentina, England and the USA doing productions such as a Broadway review called Now and Forever, a pop concert called Center Stage featuring songs from the 60’s to the 80’s, a dance tribute called Tango Buenos Aires where they sing in Spanish, a jazz set and a thematic show called Summer Breeze.

Performed within a 12-day cruise itinerary, each show is done twice per night with one hour intervals in-between. A tough schedule, but Anna shares she is in a very fortunate position. “We’ve managed to keep our ranks as top featured singers in our production. It’s a big deal for both of us because mostly, they get either an American or singers from UK. They still do come to Manila to audition but they haven’t seen anyone who would replace us. Maybe it helped that we already built a foundation in Manila. And they know because when they google our names, it comes out that we’ve already released albums.”

With Barcelona as their homeport, her first contract assigned her on Radiance of the Seas which had a South American itinerary while her second contract aboard Brilliance had a European itinerary. Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Dubai, Argentina, and then some — her peripatetic forays around the globe have made a much appreciative woman out of this native of Toledo City, Cebu.

“I get to meet people coming from different countries and the different characters in the world. It makes me appreciate and be proud of how we are as Filipinos, since I get to compare. But at the end of the day, I realize we have no right to judge because it’s about the culture, family and upbringing of someone on why they happen to be that way,” says Anna who, as a featured singer, gets similar privileges that cruise guests enjoy.

Being a brown-skinned Asian, she encounters challenges every now and then. Yet wait ‘til they hear her sing, and all doubters become admirers. “The challenge is double. That’s why I always look forward to the chance to sing onstage because I’m very confident with what I do. I feel they will accept and like me once they hear me sing. There is discrimination not only from guests but from colleagues but once they see how I work, they change their minds.”

Anna never fails to thank the high heavens for the opportunity to perform before an international audience, gain their appreciation, explore different countries, and get paid while doing so. She has lost count of all the places she has been to, previously just far-away lands she could only dream of.

But it’s not all glamour out there at sea.

December 19 of last year, a winter storm hit their ship while en route to Alexandria, Egypt. It was the worst incident of Royal Caribbean International’s history.

She relates her near-death experience: “Hapit mi nalunod. Our captain was advised that we cannot go through Egypt because one part of our ship had already sunk. So tuyok na lang mi. Pagtuyok, the ship moved at a 40-degree angle.”

At 2 am, Anna was jolted from sleep when the impact shoved her to one corner of her room. There was water inside her cabin and all her stuff were strewn about.

“I really thought I was gonna die and we were gonna sink. The destruction was really massive, but because of the crew’s teamwork and our mindset that we were there to work, the very next morning, everything was fixed.”

With her still quivering in fear, their cruise director quickly informed them on what headliner show they will perform to entertain their shaken guests that evening. “All of us we’re so traumatized with what happened but because we were crew members, we were there to work. I was really nervous and trembling while doing the show. There was a lot of talk at that time on what was gonna happen. So I was thinking, ‘Mamatay ko ani sa barko far away from my family?’ But when I saw the guests, you’re reminded, ‘Why are you here? You’re here as an entertainer and as part of the crew.’ So you have to pick yourself up. You have no choice because you’re a worker in the ship.”

She continues, “I took off my heels and then I told my guests ‘I’m sorry. I’m really trembling right now. I hope you don’t mind if I take these off because I can’t reach my high notes.’ The guests appreciated it so much that in spite what happened, we were still there to entertain them.”

That episode made Anna realize that she is “really an artist and born to be a performer. Because even if God put me in that situation and I was trying to pity myself, when the cruise director said we were gonna do a headliner show, I could have said ‘Are you really expecting me to perform now? I’m really traumatized.’ But I just nodded yes.”

Surviving that storm was just one achievement that Anna will be proud to recount to anyone who cares to listen. The other feat she’s most pleased with was their group recently besting 21 other fleets when guests judged them the best performers on board.

This constant appreciation of her talent is what Anna thinks of to ward off homesickness the moments it creeps in.

“I always miss home. But at the end of the day, you signed a contract. You know that you’re going to be far away from home. You know that you’re going to be at sea. So it’s just a matter of psyching yourself that it’s part of the job. You miss a lot of birthdays, anniversaries and special events. When I was in Brilliance, my aunt died and it was very frustrating that I couldn’t hear my mom clearly while talking to her on the phone.”

The singer says she sees herself completing two more contracts. After that, she’s setting her sights on settling down. “I will never stop singing. But in my age now, I want to have a family and a kid,” she reveals.

That’s not far-fetched for yes, Anna has also found love on board. His name is Adam Brown from Cincinnati, USA, a drummer and the musical director of Brilliance’s entertainment division. Despite the long-distance romance (he’ll remain in Brilliance while Anna is joining a different ship for her next contract), Anna is hoping this one will be for keeps. She says she’s not getting any younger, and thus has no time to play around.

While here in Cebu, she is maximizing her stay by spending time with family and friends, and fixing up her house in Lapu-Lapu — a product of years of her toil using her God-given gift of voice.

Royal Caribbean Production Studios is not keen on letting go of their prized talents, and has renewed her and Reuben’s contracts for another two years. So when her six weeks here are over, Anna is set to board Mariner of the Seas, this time with a Western Mediterranean itinerary. She’s already excited to visit Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

Before we once again bid her bon voyage, Anna leaves this message of inspiration to those dreaming to tread her same path: “God knows that if He puts me on stage and gives me a microphone to sing, I give my best shot. I’m very proud of the way I work. I’m very detailed and in a way, a perfectionist. I just want it to be the best whenever I have the chance to perform. I’m also very transparent on stage, my feelings really show. So my advice, just listen to what your heart dictates and give your best shot every time. When you do that, blessings come your way. And when you have blessings, share it with others.”

ADAM BROWN ANNA ANNA AND REUBEN ANNA FEGI BRILLIANCE OF THE SEAS CRUISE REALLY ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL
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