How Pinoy went from singing contest finalist to Disney prince

By Maria Aleta Nieva-Nishimori,

Posted at Feb 18 2015 03:08 PM | Updated as of Feb 19 2015 11:08 PM

Gian Magdangal

MANILA – When one door closes, another opens. This is exactly what happened to Gian Magdangal, a former television singer, actor and musical theatre performer in the Philippines.

Magdangal started his musical theatre career in the Philippines in 2000. He was a finalist in a televised singing contest before moving on to become part of another television network’s noontime show.

But that had to end.

“It’s actually something that just happened, they just probably wanted to remove some talents and I was one of the talents whose contacts did not get renewed. They did not want to renew my contract anymore,” he said.

Magdangal did not have the luxury to wait it out. “I am a Dad and I have one son who is 6-years old. I needed to find work immediately because I send him to school and that's my main priority,” he said.

He wanted to still do what he loves doing best and that is singing, performing. The opportunity came when an audition for Hong Kong Disneyland was held last year.

“After a few months of odd jobs and no contracts, this audition came along and I saw it in the newspaper. I auditioned and I got the role and I had to decide within the week if I want to accept the job right away or not,” he said.

Gian Magdangal plays the role of 'Captain Shang' in Mulan at The Golden Mickey Show in Hong Kong Disneyland

He has been with Hong Kong Disneyland for about five months now, playing one of the major roles as Captain Shang in "Mulan" as part of "The Golden Mickey Show" at the Storybook Theatre.

“It’s really more of like a father's decision to really provide for my son. I saw this as a really good opportunity,” he said.

“Masaya dito. Syempre, may trabaho na maganda. May kontrata, kaysa doon sa Manila na, saan ako? Kung ayaw kang bigyan ng kontrata ng network, nga-nga,” he added.


When asked about how much he is making there, Magdangal said the pay is very good and he’s very happy about it.

“I’ve been happy as a performer and Disneyland gave me this light to be able to perform again. When we perform, we see these children coming to the theatre in all smiles. It’s a very fulfilling experience to be able to perform for them and getting paid is just a bonus. It’s really something. You become ecstatic as a performer,” he said.

As a performer, Magdangal said they keep it real every time to keep the children engage in the show.

“I think that's the magic of Disney, how you engage genuinely with kids,” he said.

He gives credit to his experience in show business because it taught him how to be disciplined and always be humble about opportunities that come along his way.

“I’d like to think that there are only a handful of people who get to do what they love doing and make it as an occupation and that is something I am very grateful and thankful for. Showbiz also gave me this inspiration to see how it can really touch people's lives and it’s something that I still bring to Hong Kong kahit na hindi Plilipino, ibang nationality ang kinakantahan mo, iba pa rin yung may pride ka na Pinoy,” he said.

His biggest motivation is his son.

“Kahit na sabihin nating cheesy, pero totoo. Di mo mare-realize yun hangga’t wala ka na sa bansa, di mo katabi anak mo, di mo kayakap pag natutulog kayo”.

Just like any other Filipinos working abroad, Magdangal had to find ways to fight loneliness. Since Hong Kong is just about two hours away from Manila by plane, he makes it a point to come home every month.

“Akala ko mamumulubi ako sa flight, mayroon pa lang piso fare! You buy the tickets in advance. I go every month. But if there's a piso fare, for example a cheap ticket, I go home right away because I do not want to miss my moments with my son and that's the truth,” he said.

His son said that is happy for him but he knows too how separation can have an effect on his son.

“But I have to say that he’s sad, only by the fact that, in his words, he says ‘Daddy, I hope Disneyland is near school. Can you transfer to a closer Disneyland to school?’ I bring him to school everyday. Now, he rides a school bus,” he said.

Next month, his son will be flying to Hong Kong with his grandparents to see Magdangal perform on stage. “I’m very excited!” he said.

“The best part of working here is being able to wake up and feel I’m not stressed about so many things and that life is simple,” he said.