Amusement industry icon

- Rey Gamboa - The Philippine Star

Following our series on our year-end special on how various industries in the Philippines fared for 2015 and their forecasts for 2016 as shared by the presidents of the business organizations under whose umbrella these industries fall, allow me to introduce to you another Filipino business mover, a pillar of the amusement industry in the country.

While everyone regards the holidays as a period of rest and recreation, a time to bond with family and friends, those in the amusement industry have their hands full with work.  If by any chance you are one of those who flocked to Enchanted Kingdom, or even those seasonal amusement parks, you would understand that holidays are times to join in the fun offered in these places.  But for Mr. Mario Mamon and his family, it is when work is at its peak when revenues peak as well.

The Mamon patriarch, Mario’s father, hailed from Haniway, Iloilo. While his mom, a full-time housewife and mother, was from San Fernando, Pampanga.  The family lived in Laguna as the older Mamon worked at the sugar plantation of the Yulos where he ran the Canlubang sugar estate. This was where the young Mario spent his most cherished childhood which he remembers fondly to this day.  His high school years were spent with the Salesian order of Don Bosco in Lipa, Batangas. Then he was off to the University of the Philippines in Los Baños where he completed his degree in Bachelor of Science in Agribusiness.  Incidentally, Mario’s dad also graduated with an agricultural degree from UP Los Baños, and this was where Mario met his future lifetime partner, Cynthia Romero, his wife of 39 years.

Agribusiness was a natural choice for him as his father ran the Canlubang sugar estate and concurrently also the family-owned sugar farms in Laguna, Cavite and Batangas. But Mario’s father retired in 1976 and relocated his family to Calamba, Laguna where the clan still lives to this day.  When the patriarch eventually passed away in 1985, it was on Mario’s shoulder that the burden of running the family’s sugar farms fell. After graduation from college in 1976, Mario spent a year working at the Bangko Sentral until he had to assist his father run the family business.

 Those were terrible years for the sugar industry, and to compound it, the industrialization of Sta. Rosa came.  It was just a natural progression that large tracts of land would eventually change hands, and what used to be the Mamon sugar farms are now what is known as Nuvali, a high-end development by Ayala Corporation.

The sugar farms ceased operations in 1992, but it was only five years later that full work stoppage happened.  At that time, the family still owned large tracts of land in the south, and it was a challenge for Mario to reinvent the land use of these real estate assets. With a young family of his own, they enjoyed going to the seasonal carnivals and during this time, the Philippine economy was doing very well, so business opportunities were ripe for picking.  It was in 1992 that Mario conceptualized what would later be known as Enchanted Kingdom, a theme park with rides and attractions, and in 1994, Enchanted Kingdom broke ground.

Investing in an amusement park in such a scale was indeed a big challenge, and with all pioneering efforts such as this, serious apprehensions, fears and jitters are what these pioneers live by on a daily basis. Of course, there are other amusement parks that are set up yearly as the Christmas holiday season comes, but they also fold up in early January, only to be back again in December.  None of these are in the scale of Enchanted Kingdom, and Mario took a big bold step when he set his sights on a huge theme park, complete with attractions and rides.  It was a leap of faith.

Twenty years later, after surviving his own roller coaster ride in the business and surviving the Asian crisis of 1997 and the global financial meltdown in 2008-2009, Enchanted Kingdom continues to lord it over in the amusement industry.  Since 2008, they have expanded and added more attractions and rides. And because the amusement industry is a highly dynamic one, the Mamon  family continues to reinvent the business.  They are working on making Enchanted Kingdom not just a one-day stop for the family, but more of a two to three-day stop with a complete package for the family, an integrated destination.  This includes swimming, comfortable lodging, food and beverage, shopping, exhibits and conventions.

Mario credits his membership at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, a 98-year old organization, for expanding his knowledge about the industry and exposing him to the elite circle of experts in this sector.  In 2014, he became the chairman of the organization, the first and only Asian and certainly the first Filipino to chair the international organization.  It has also placed Enchanted Kingdom on the global map of amusement parks and attractons.

Mario and Cynthia have four children, two girls and two boys, all of them professionals.  His eldest son and his wife worked with Hong Kong Disneyland for some time before moving into Enchanted Kingdom, which is now a family-run affair.

In his younger days, Mario dabbled in baseball and basketball, but what he really enjoyed was motor sports when he competed in rallies and go karts.  He enjoyed driving with Blu Reyna who was a champion navigator back in the day and who now heads the operations at Enchanted Kingdom.  In fact, he joined the Sampaguita Rally in 1975, and he became very active in the present day Car Rallying from 1976 to the early ’90’s as a member of the Nodalo’s Team.

Mario Mamon heads the Chamber of Commerce in Sta. Rosa, Laguna where the organization promotes good business environment.  For his advocacies, he counts among them his efforts at extending assistance to small carnival operators to promote safety, and also contributes in the global effort to save the environment by using LED lights exclusively and recycling water. Enchanted Kingdom is also supporting the Philippine Eagle Foundation to help save not only the Philippine Eagle but all endangered species as well.  And at this stage in his life, he abides by a Confucius saying: “ It’s not how many times you fall but how many times you rise up.”

Mabuhay!!!  Be proud to be a Filipino.

Email: s[email protected] / [email protected]













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