THERE are names that have instant recall, and some of these names carry with them the mark of professionalism, excellent “people skills” and work dedication.

When one talks about SM City Cebu (SCC), one not only thinks of the Henry Sy family behind the empire, but also of another name.

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She is the familiar Cebuana marketing whiz whom the community saw as the one on the job; a woman who saw to the nitty-gritty of the construction of the landmark mall and managing it to what it is today. Who is this woman? None other than Maria Eloisa N. Fernan, who is better known as Marissa.

Marissa recounts that her first job in the Philippines after her studies in the United States was with the SM Group in 1988 as project manager opening Banco de Oro branches in Cebu.

In 1993, she became general manager of SCC. This was the opportunity for her to realize her aim to bring to “Cebu whatever is best for Cebu,” an aim that has also moved her up the mall’s corporate ladder to assistant vice president.

Then she became senior vice president and now vice president for SM Visayas and Mindanao (VP-Vismin), as well as vice president for marketing of SM Prime Holdings Inc., the “owner” of the SM Malls.

As VP-Vismin, she oversees the malls in Iloilo, Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Davao and, of course, Cebu, where she is based and observes how the malls interact with the community and with the government.

And now that the empire has acquired 30 hectares of the South Reclamation Project, Marissa will have more work in her hands.

In the planning board are a mall similar to SM’s Mall of Asia, condominiums, a hotel or two and a convention center. Aside from these, a small mall in Consolacion is also in the works.

Outside the corporate world, Marissa enjoys the performing arts, a love she is able to promote and share with Cebuanos because of her being with the company.

She learned to love the arts, she said, when she was a student in the US and she worked weekends, taking care of an old lady so her parents—the late fore chief justice and senator Marcelo B. Fernan and the former Eloisa Nolasco—did not have to send her allowance money.

The old lady, who listened to classical music while she painted, would sometimes take Marissa to the opera and other cultural events. This exposure, so lacking in Cebu, has made her the patroness of the arts that she is today.

A techie, she surfs the Internet mostly to access information.

To relax, she listens to music; reads light and real—not virtual—books; dines out with her family or friend; and “basically watches shows” including Big Brother. Being a psychology major, she is interested in the human dynamics, the action and interaction of the people thrown into the program.

She also travels yearly to a new place, the last being Prague, but her favorite destinations are Italy in Europe, San Francisco and New York in the US and the south of Cebu.

Marissa says she has moved up to where she is with the help of a strong support system—her family and her good friends. Besides, whatever she does, she “offers to my God. Everything is dedicated to the God that created me.” He, of course, is the best support of all.