Businessman Cesar Mario Mamon has successfully fulfilled his goal of making millions of
children happy, 22 years and counting, as the man behind the first and only world-class theme park in the Philippines, aptly named Enchanted Kingdom.
But, as they say, behind every man’s success is a woman, and for Enchanted Kingdom’s (EK) chairman and president, nothing can be truer. Himself a cover of The Sunday Times Magazine in 2015, the man of vision and passion credited his beloved wife Cynthia Mamon for helping him achieve his lifelong dream. As such, the “king” had his ever-supportive “queen” with him every step of the way in building what seemed like a far-fetched idea into a veritable kingdom of fun for Filipinos of every age. Indeed, EK has thrived through the years as a theme park whose standards are comparable to the best in the world.
Cynthia is currently chief operating officer (COO) of the family-owned playground in Sta. Rosa Laguna. But while EK opened as early as 1995, she told The Sunday Times Magazine it took her some time before taking an official post in the business.
Though a graduate of BS Home Technology, Major in Food and Nutrition, from the University of the Philippines-Los Baños, the intelligent lady successfully made a career in the field of Information Technology. For 20 years, she served as Director for the Management Information Services Division (MISD) of the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council For Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCARRD). At the end of a stellar two decades in the government agency, she shot past the proverbial glass ceiling and became chief executive officer (CEO) of Sun Microsystems Philippines—a joint IT venture between her family and the US-based Sun Microsystems in 1992.
After some time, her family sold their shares in the company but Cynthia retained her position as president and managing director. After all, she was an asset to the team what with numerous achievements in the IT field, including a spot in Media G8Way Corporation’s “Most Powerful Women in the Information Industry in the Philippines” and the “2004 Outstanding Alumnus Award for Excellence in Information Technology and Corporate Governance” from the alumni association of her alma mater, University of the Philippines-Los Baños.
No matter how challenging a job in the ever-changing sphere of IT had been, however, Cynthia was always on hand for whatever her husband needed in setting up Enchanted Kingdom.
“When he was planning Enchanted Kingdom in 1992, I was also strengthening our Sun Microsystems business,” recalled the corporate executive. “Eventually, when the financial crisis hit Asia in 2007, the company was sold to another information management group, which was just as well because the theme park was also affected by the slump, and I knew I needed to step in and help out.”
A voracious learner, as well as a person who always tries to find an opportunity in any circumstance—whether positive or negative—Cynthia even pursued her Ph.D. in Management, graduating summa cum laude in 2008 at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran University in Calamba, Laguna.
“I used Enchanted Kingdom as my thesis,” she chuckled. “It was titled ‘Appreciative Inquiry as a Planned Change Management Platform for a Themed Park.’ Hitting two birds with one stone when I started getting officially involved in EK, I was able to study business models, eventually finding the right one to improve the park’s sales and marketing, as well as developing more partners.”
Cynthia affectionately shared, “My husband always acknowledged my help and up to now he says that I had created a renaissance in Enchanted Kingdom from the varied improvements I initiated.”
Starting out as EK’s Vice President for Sales and Marketing, she eventually took on the post of chief operating officer, which she holds to this very day.
And while her husband will always say she is the woman behind his success, Cynthia—for all her educational achievements and skills in business—gives back the credit to the heavens.
“I always acknowledge God’s help because as Mr. Mamon will always say EK has been a roller coaster ride in itself. With His help, since 2008 to 2017, we’ve achieved profitability and are now looking forward to EK’s expansion program.”
Besides being on top of the corporate ladder, and later initiating a renaissance at Enchanted Kingdom, Cynthia has always been the beloved queen of the Mamon home.
Even if she had always been a career woman, she was ever present in the lives of her children—Yoni, Anna, Bea and Nico—who today are well-rounded and responsible individuals in society.
“I think my work both in the business and taking care of the children has now expanded to taking care of our grandchildren,” the doting grandmother happily shared. “We have nine grandchildren! So we also help out our children. It requires time management but all in all I am having so much fun and I thoroughly enjoy what I’m doing.”
Describing her full schedule, both in business and for the family “happy stress,” Cynthia related she has the perfect reliever in her grandchildren.
“They are my precious gifts and they take all the stress away,” she lovingly added.
Asked if she has time to unwind for herself, she excitedly revealed, “I love dancing!” Apparently, since the age of five, she had been a dancer in school.
“Through grade school, high school and college,” she enumerated. “I was a member of UP Filipiniana Dance Group and then when I gave birth to our four children, I lost weight by ballroom dancing. I even competed and won a contest in Hong Kong—the senior category in Waltz, Tango and Foxtrot. Now, I turn to dance for exercise and me time.”
Thriving at 22
On this very day, Enchanted Kingdom is marking its 22nd anniversary, and the Mamons, led by its king and queen, are grateful that the public continues to patronize their magical theme park.
“Twenty-two years ago, that dream, as you can see, continues to flourish. And on our 22nd year, we have coincidentally counted a little more than 22 million visitors coming and experiencing the park, despite challenges along the way, and we cannot be more grateful,” Cynthia enthused.
“We’re happy and we’re sure that all those who came at the very least smiled, laughed and enjoyed the park. It is for those very experiences that my husband built Enchanted Kingdom from the very beginning.”
With 17 hectares of park to explore, seven themed zones to visit, 34 rides and attractions to experience, 22 skill games to beat, 14 live shows to enjoy, 49 food outlets to try, and 500 cast members and staffers providing world-class service to EK visitors, there is indeed so much to celebrate on this milestone.
Asked about the latest attractions Enchanted Kingdom has to offer, Cynthia was quick to highlight the Agila the Eksperience, the first and only flying theater in the Philippines today.
“It is geared towards students since it’s an educational attraction that is also exhilarating. I recommend to those who have not been able to travel around the country—both Filipinos and foreigners—because they get a bird’s eye view of what our islands are all about,” the COO elaborated.
Agila takes visitors to 20 breathtaking sights of the country in just six minutes—from Batanes to Cagayan de Oro. The theater feels as if it is lifted off the ground via moving seats equipped with an even more advanced technology than 4DX, unleashing special effects of wind, water and eagle-like motion. Ultimately, guests will see the “nature story” unfold in a stunningly vivid, larger than life aerial cinematography splashed across an enormous 544-square meter screen, with no less than the 80-piece Philharmonic Orchestra rendering magical music.
“Throughout EK’s 22, years, we are proud to continue to tap the talent and skills of the Filipino. We hired local architects, construction workers, and even the film for Agila was produced by an-all Filipino team, with the music composed by Maestro Ryan Cayabyab. In fact, this attraction was nominated for the Thea Awards, which will likely be given in April of next year by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), an annual awards for theme park attractions.
“Agila was nominated for product quality and excellence, and we hope and pray that we will win it because it’s the first time a Filipino team developed something like this,” she added.
According to Cynthia, the inspiration for Agila was the fact that parkgoers generally feel they are not in the Philippines when visiting EK. With the latest attraction, national pride has definitely found its place in the kingdom.
With so much to be grateful for, the Mamons—who have always made sure to feature Filipino-made products at the part via its Go Local corner in cooperation with the Department of Trade and Industry—are marking their 22nd anniversary in a very meaningful way by doing their share in rebuilding Marawi.
“We have advocated helping Marawi since the war started, and now that it’s over, we have gone there to source products we can sell in a project called ‘Bangon Marawi.’ We now have malongs, native bags and other items from there, which we hope will help the people there begin rebuilding their lives.”
Social responsibility, according to Cynthia, has always been upheld by Enchanted Kingdom, and she and her husband believe they have proudly passed on this value to their children.
“After all, we will eventually pass on the business to our children, and thankfully, we are blessed that even if all four of them chose their own career paths, they are all somehow related to operations in EK. I like to think of it as divine providence.”
Currently, the eldest Mamon sibling Yoni is into the entertainment scene. Anna, the second child, is finishing her MBA in the US and has promised to come home and help in business development.
“The only one who is working for their father for now is Bea. From Monday to Friday she works for her dad as Special Assistant to the President but during the weekends, she is part of our all-female vocal group called Victoria’s Way so she performs in the park,” the proud COO mom shared.
“Finally, Nico, who used to work for Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong and now in Malaysia, will eventually help us out because as part of our master plan, we will also build a hotel very near EK. So we are lucky that our children are able to gain experience outside so that when they comeback they are properly trained and ready to take on the business.”
The Mamons also plan to put up a business school in order to pass on what they learned first-hand in building and running the country’s first and only theme park.
“I had asked my husband to reserve an area for a university on the property because I’ll already be 65 next year. I also would like to share what we know in a university setting where we can help the next generation achieve their business potential too.”
Finally, with hopes that the next generation will see through the kingdom they built, Cynthia, on behalf of her husband promised that Enchanted Kingdom will be more than just a fun place to visit. She has faith that her children will help them make EK one of the best theme parks in the world.
“When our children were young, we went to all kinds of carnivals and theme parks, like Payanig sa Pasig, Boom na Boom, Fiesta Carnival, etc. We really enjoyed going to those places so my husband and my brother-in-law thought of building a world-class theme park where children will be safe, while experiencing what other parks around the world had to offer,” Cynthia recalled.
“At that time, not every Filipino can go to Disneyland—there was no Hong Kong Disneyland yet. But even while more Filipinos now get to travel, we are happy we can offer everyone this kind of attraction for everyone.
Regardless of social status or age, everyone can have a magical experience at Enchanted Kingdom,” assured the queen.
In closing, Cynthia Mamon, whose faith saw her through the challenges of the business, thoughtfully said, “I’ve always liked to see Enchanted Kingdom as an extension of God’s Eternal Kingdom. That’s why we will always be devoted to giving the feeling of safety, peace and happiness to everyone who walks into our gates.”