Mary Ann Ibuna Pastrana is one empowered woman who ventured into a career in maritime generally seen as the preserve of men. In confronting this popular view, she epitomizes the gradually changing backdrop on the role of women amidst calls for gender equality.
Born to a family of entrepreneurs, Mary Ann said her journey in shipping and port operations started in the 1980s when she and her husband chartered vessels for their trading business. She is Executive Vice President and Treasurer of the Capp Group of Companies, which is engaged in the trading of bulk raw materials for the cement industry.
Eventually, the husband and wife team founded Archipelago Philippines Ferries Corporation, or FastCat, which aims to link the Philippine islands and offer world-class customer service to passengers and shippers. The corporation has expanded to various business ventures to complete the customer experience through logistics, manpower, hotels, and maintenance.
Mary Ann described her business approach as simple yet holistic, sustainable and focused on improving the lives of Filipinos. In line with FastCat’s aim of providing an overall customer experience, Mary Ann spearheaded the building of the By the Sea budget hotels to accommodate travelers and serve as training venues for seafarers. She collaborated with schools and universities to provide cadets and graduates with continuous know-know and skills to become more globally competitive, a commitment few in the domestic shipping industry are willing to take.
Assuming many posts in various businesses does not seem to tire this executive, as she articulated a plan to construct an eco-friendly shipyard facility for ship repair work and maintenance. As in the other enterprises run by the Pastranas, the planned shipyard facility will adopt the principles of green shipping. More so, she sees this as another opportunity of generating local employment and creating livelihood within the community.
Through the years, her involvement in maritime enterprises expanded to include being President of Archipelago Philippine Seafarers Training Institute, Inc.; President of Scorpio Transport and Manning Services Inc.; Executive Vice President-Treasurer of Archipelago Philippine Ferries, Inc.; Executive Vice President –Treasurer of Rolin Broadcasting Enterprises, Inc.; Executive Vice President-Treasurer, Capp Group of Companies; Executive Vice President-Treasurer Philharbor Ferries and Port Services, Inc.; and Penta Maritime Corp.
Para sa bayan (For the country)
Mary Ann bellows her now familiar one-liner “parasabayan” whenever asked about the impassioned desire to improve the way things are in domestic shipping. It is her firm belief that the Filipino deserves no less attention from government and from industry. She expresses her readiness to contribute in any way she can in supporting advocacies that lead to the improvement of the quality of life of the Filipino through good governance and prudence by all maritime stakeholders. She believes that with our actions, we can make a positive impact and inspire others. It is this passion that motivates her to work tirelessly and come up with various initiatives and innovative ideas.
Providing sea transport that is convenient, safe and secure is her way of making a direct impact on the Filipino. She makes sure that FastCat is able to deliver the best to Filipino sea travelers not only in fulfillment of its obligations as common carrier, but also to encourage Filipinos to see more of the Philippines. In realizing this, she plans to move into eco-tourism and the farm-to-table concept to further promote sustainable business development. She foresees these will stimulate rural development at the same time expand the opportunities available to farmers and rural communities.
As one of the few female executives in maritime, she is committed to empowering women and recognizing their leadership roles in the industry. She is currently the Vice- President of the Women in Maritime – Philippines (Wimaphil), which is at the forefront of seeking greater roles for women and optimizing the opportunities available for them in the industry. She takes pride that FastCat has engaged female seafarers and is intent on hiring more in the coming days.
Persistence ensures success
Persistence and hard work are values that Mary Ann said she and her siblings learned from their parents. She does not easily give up even when things seem impossible. To her, there is always an alternative way to reach a target and to make things work, one just needs to shift gears to adapt to change.
This mother of four (which include a lady doctor and a budding lady chef) says she is able to manage her household and still achieve much in the maritime sphere. She attributed the ability of attaining a work-life balance to her early exposure to the corporate world. At a young age, after obtaining her degree in BS Nutrition at the University of the Philippines – Los Baños, Mary Ann was already involved in managing the family trading business. After passing the licensure examination for nutritionists, she decided to skip the healthcare profession and instead ventured into maritime. To advance her knowledge, she took a post diploma course on Executive Maritime Management at the World Maritime University.
Mary Ann’s commitment to actively participate in programs aimed at advancing the country’s development is manifested through the charity works she continues to initiate and lead. This busy executive is involved in various maritime events, which she tries to intersperse with the companies’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) and charitable and civic programs, which to her is one way of empowering communities. Holding feeding sessions, educational tours and environment awareness activities under the banner of FastCat and carrying the advocacy of Wimaphil to create better appreciation by the wider population on the importance of the oceans in general and the shipping sector in particular are some of the programs Mary Ann continuously pursues.
For her significant contribution to community building, Mary Ann was awarded as an Outstanding Alumni of UP. And every time friends and colleagues cheer her for her achievements, she retorts, “parasabayan.”