“I just love making people happy,” says Normando Macalinao, 24, who’s been doing magic since he was 14. Image Credit: Javed Nawab/Gulfnews

Dubai: Anywhere you go in the UAE, there is a very good chance you will bump into a Filipino.

From construction, health care and retail to hospitality, you are bound to find Filipinos who work as engineers, nurses, chefs, marketers, domestic workers, etc.

And there are some who can do magic.

Normando Macalinao is one of a handful of UAE-based Filipinos who earn a living by briefly suspending reality for captivated audiences.

He has been all over the country performing in various events and private functions, but it was his series impromptu street shows that has made him a local celebrity of sorts.

'I love making people happy'

“I just love making people happy,” beams Macalinao, who’s been doing magic since he was 14 years old. “I can make people happy through magic – using a deck of cards and sleight of hand. Every time I see the reaction of people, it means a lot to me.”

The 24-year-old magician learned magic by accident. He was actually not a fan of the craft growing up, but everything changed after an encounter with a stranger.

Filipino magician Normando Macalinao with his manager Moe Jabry during a visit to the newspaper.  Javed Nawab / Gulf News

“There was this guy in a restaurant who showed me two balls – he kept one ball in my hand and the other in his hand. When I opened my hand the ball vanished and then it appeared in his hands, and I was like, oh my God I want to become a magician,” explains Macalinao.

He adds: “Imagine I was 14 years old and that’s the first time I saw magic – I never watched magic shows on television. I also didn’t have money to watch live magic shows.”

After that incident, Macalinao started to learn magic by himself. When he became better at it, he started to perform to his classmates at the university.

“That time, I did magic just for fun,” shares Macalinao.

Eventually, Macalinao decided to become a magician. But coming from a family of politicians, his parents did not agree to his idea.

“They wanted me to be in the politics because they are in the politics,” he says. “But I can’t be in the politics because I love doing magic.”

In 2014, the hotel and restaurant management graduate came to Dubai and worked as a waiter in one of the hotels in the emirate. Magic took a back seat, but he would still perform when given a chance for some guests.

“I got promoted after a year but still I felt that I was not happy,” he says. “So, I took my cards again and started doing magic everywhere, even if I don’t get paid. I did it in the streets of Dubai, making some people happy and that’s it.”

Turned down

He went on to search for work as full-time magician, but he was turned down many times. Some venues even refused his offer to perform for free.

Macalinao eventually decided to leave Dubai and try his luck elsewhere, but a week before his flight, another fateful meeting with a stranger gave him the break he badly wanted.

“I was supposed to leave Dubai and go somewhere. One week before my flight, I met Moe Jabry and he said I want to manage you and that changed my life,” he says. “I’m doing my real love, which is magic.”

Macalinao has been a professional magician for a year now, fulfilling his dream and performing in different venues and for some of well-known personalities in the UAE.

“Imagine, now I’m performing in big restaurants and bars and for well-known people. They want me on their events, so yeah it’s been quite a rollercoaster ride for me.”

During a visit at the Gulf News office where he wowed the staff with his bag of tricks, Macalinao reveals more in this Q&A with #Pinoy.

On learning magic

No one actually taught me magic. I didn’t have money to pay people to teach me. The only thing I had was passion and my obsession to magic.  

The 24-year-old Filipino magician in Dubai learned magic by accident. He was actually not a fan of the craft growing up, but everything changed after an encounter with a stranger.  Javed Nawab / Gulf News

Normally I bring my cards with me and try to figure out what I’m going to do and learn something new. Sometimes I watch Britain’s Got Talent or America’s Got Talent and observe what the contestants are doing and get some ideas from them and then I create my own.

If I perform before an audience who has seen my magic, I need to show them something different. I’m creating and updating my magic every day – practicing all day, sometimes five to six hours a day.

Every time I go out, even when in a restaurant, I’m still looking at my cards practicing. It’s an obsession, it’s my passion. If I hold my cards I feel happy, I feel relaxed.

His kind of magic

I have no idea how many magic tricks I have. I have a lot. I want to do close-up magic, sleight of hand, which I often do now. I do mentalist tricks as well, normally when I do big shows.

I’m planning one day to walk on the water at the Dubai Fountain and walking up on the Burj Khalifa’s outside walls. I mean, it’s all in the plan.

Filipino magician in Dubai, Normando Macalinao, enthrals Gulf News Reporter Mary Achkhanian with one of his tricks.  Javed Nawab / Gulf News


Memorable performance

I did one with Mohammad Al Habtoor, he is a very well-known personality in the UAE. When I did a magic trick, I saw him smile and he was like oh I love you already. Now, I go out with him doing some magic with his friends.

The secret of his magic

A lot of people are trying to figure it out. They will take a video and play it back in slow motion, but unfortunately no one can figure it out. There are also some people who try to mess up my performance, but I’m a magician, don’t mess with a magician (laughs).

Favourite magician

My favourite magician is David Blaine. I look up to him so much.

On OFWs on not giving up on their dreams

If you have a passion for something, do it. Do what makes you happy. If you are happy with what you are doing, you’ll achieve whatever you want. Never give up on your dreams. You only live once, enjoy the moment. Enjoy your time in this world. Do what you love and make people happy.