how don marios grill and cafe started

If you know me, you must have seen me post random stuff about our little family restaurant. It is called DON MARIOS GRILL AND CAFE, located in a small barangay in Lagonoy, Camarines Sur in Bicol, Philippines.

My mother, Cynthia Rellora, initially had the idea of creating this business by turning the family residential and vacation home into a food destination where local residents and nearby municipalities can gather, eat and have fun.

Her idea came into fruition on March 28, 2018. It was a rough start but little by little especially when we boosted our presence on social media, we started gaining popularity and people started checking in and trying our menu, instagram worthy corners and other services.

The name Don Mario’s is actually derived from the name of Mario Demesa, my great grandfather and the original owner of the property.

Mario Demesa “Papayang”

My aunts and uncles call him “papayang” and I heard them say that he’s pure Chinese and he married Hermogena, a very religious Filipina who they fondly call “mamayang”. They had 7 kids. The eldest is my grandmother, Lilian Demesa Perez – the mother of my mother.

Lola Lilian – My grandmother and Mario’s eldest daughter.

Sadly, I never met Papayang or Mamayang. Nearly 2 months before I was born, he and his wife died in a vehicular accident. I grew up visiting their remains yearly during All saints day. That’s the only memory I have of them.

I wonder what would it be like if I met him. Maybe I can ask him if he is really Chinese because that will make me 1/8 intsik, ask him how he spoiled my mother, aunts and uncles, ask him how he managed to raise 7 kids. There are so many questions to ask… I guess his influence made an impact because my mother named our small restaurant with his name in it.

My grandfather and one of Mario’s sons, Sergio Demesa, said that he’s a very kind and altruistic man. Probably, he must have been a truly devoted and loving father and a generous grand dad because I’ve been hearing lovely stories about his life from my family.

I think it’s nice that our food hub is named after him. Somehow, it keeps the family closer and gives us the idea that home still exists in Lagonoy.


If he is alive, I think he will encourage you to visit the restaurant and share a wonderful time with family and friends for he believes that spending time with our love ones is worth more than anything. But since we have a pandemic, he will probably tell you to strictly follow the health and safety protocols.

Next month, Don Mario’s Grill and Cafe will celebrate its 3rd Anniversary. However, due to the current situation, we do not know if we will do something to celebrate it. Visit our facebook page for more updates. We are now changing our opening and closing time. We will start from 0900 until 2100, Monday to Sunday.