‘Don’t make poverty an excuse’

Katlene O. Cacho

CAPTAIN Rodien Paca knew he had no other way to finish school but through obtaining a scholarship.

He was born from a poor family in Naga City. He lost his father when he was seven years old.

Tha family’s sari-sari store business helped pay his tuition in elementary and high school, but Paca knew it wasn’t enough. He had to do something.

“For someone who experienced life’s difficulties, you are determined to find ways to make life a bit easier. That time, I knew I had to be a scholar so I could finish school,” said Paca, a seaman turned entrepreneur and an international speaker and lecturer for United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

He currently runs several business ventures. He owns Paca Training and Management Systems Inc. Asia (PTMS Asia), a Cebu-based consultancy firm for logistics management, supply chain systems, commercial shipping management, port managements and trucking management systems.

He is also the chief operating officer of Mariners Professional Shipmanagement Inc.; president of Naga Port and Shipping Management Systems Inc., Naga Cebu Truckers and General Services Inc., Road Eagle Logistics Inc.; and managing director of Pilipinas Logistics Technologies Systems Inc.

Paca finished high school with flying colors, earning him a spot to qualify for any college scholarship grants in the city.

He obtained a scholarship grant from Norwegian Shipowners Association where he finished a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Officer Training Course (Marine Transportation and Marine Engineering) in the University of Cebu. He said he spent most of his tertiary years studying diligently, bearing in mind that graduating at the top of the class would earn him a good spot when he became a seaman. True enough, Paca completed his college course as class valedectorian and magna cum laude.

“When I already started working, I had to endure the pain of being away from my family. To do that I focused on working and learning all there is in ship management while I was thousands of nautical miles away from my loved ones. I started from scratch and eventually moved up in the rank,” Paca said.

At the age of 27, he reached the highest position of a seaman’s career making him the youngest maritime captain in the world in an international ship.

“When I went to Norway, I studied additional courses in Poland and Finland. That made me an international graduate which led to faster promotion in the job,” Paca said.

As a ship captain, Paca was earning at least P400,000 a month (in early 2000) but he realized money wasn’t about everything.

“I slowly realized that the view at the top isn’t always happy and fulfilling,” he said. “A seaman’s life is a painful experience.”

An airport, for him, is a sentimental place. “It is a happy place when you arrive and the saddest when you leave,” he said.

“For eight to nine months you don’t get to see your wife and your children and the three to four months break aren’t enough to make up for that lost time,” he said, adding that the break wasn’t really a vacation but a time to study and look for a job again.

Paca resigned from being a seaman when his second child was born. He let go of the high-paying job and transferred to a Japan-based shipping management company that required him only two weeks of overseas travel per month.

Paca first became a general manager for two years before he landed as chief operating officer and vice president.

While in the corporate world, he pursued his long-held desire of acquiring further studies in logistics and ship management in the hope of opening his own firm one day.

Paca studied masters in ship management at Lloyds Maritime Academy in the United Kingdom. He obtained a doctorate degree in maritime management from John B. Locson University in Iloilo City and an MBA degree major in shipping and logistics from Middlesex University in London.

He also earned a scholarship to attend the United Nations Port Management Masteral in Dublin, Ireland hosted by UNCTAD.

“I wanted to use all the knowledge I gained to put up my own business,” he said, adding that if he failed in business for three years, he could always go back to being a seaman.

In 2012, Paca established PTMS Asia, a business he fully owned. The firm now has 900 employees.

What was your first job?

I was a seaman from 1994 to 2005. I rose from the ranks from being a third mate officer in 1996 to a second mate officer in 1997 and then a chief mate officer in 1999. In 2002, I became a topnotch master mariner by the Philippine Regulatory Commission and at 27 years old, I became the youngest captain in the world in an international ship on the same year.

Who inspired you to get into business?

The economic background I had when I was growing up inspired me to work harder every single day. Of the six scholarship grants I passed, I picked the Norwegian maritime scholarship and that brought me to places.

When did you realize this was what you were meant to do?

I didn’t take the business seriously at first. Maybe because I had doubts I would succeed. I started with six employees and as the business grew bigger and bigger, and the employee count rose from 200, 300 and now 900, I then realized this was what I was destined to do. I get emotional, especially during company events, like Christmas when I see all of the employees and their families. It sends a message that this is not about profit anymore. It’s about giving everyone the opportunity to grow and change their lives. And my workers paid me back by their loyalty and by working hard.

Why did you pick this type of business or industry?

A seaman’s job isn’t a regular one. During the three months of shore leave you spend it advancing your skills and re-applying for the job again. When I got into this business and learned the intricacies of it, I realized that doing business with ports earns better than working in ships. And for you to succeed in this venture, you must have the right people with you to execute the various operations in this kind of business.

Where did you get the training you needed to succeed?

After quitting my seaman’s career and while working for a Japan-based company I took further studies. I took classes in ship management, logistics and port management. I love learning new things and new skills.

How many times did you fail before you succeeded?

I experienced a lot of difficulties growing up but these did not hinder me to achieve my goals. I wasn’t given that many options back then but it didn’t discourage me from pursuing my dreams now. You shouldn’t stop dreaming and working for these dreams to come true.