Nikki Martinez is a voiceover narrator, writer, poet, and artist from the Philippines. She has worked in television, radio, digital and print publications in Asia, East Africa, and Europe. She produces apps, travel documentaries, audio stories, books, and more.
Storytelling as an art form is making a comeback. I feel lucky to be alive at a time when oral traditions can now be kept as digital downloads. That, while my children are away this weekend, I can still tell them Greek Myths before bedtime—with an app link.
When people ask how I became a travel writer and storyteller, I remember it was all unexpected. Growing up, I moved between the countries my parents traveled: India, Thailand, the Philippines.
In Thailand, I discovered a culture so rich and beautiful. And a language so challenging, I had to learn it. Foreign languages and dialects became the keys to unlock other mysterious portals.
My father led a small church inside the country's national prison. There, folks knew him for his faith in humanity and ability to connect and converse with anyone. I listened to conversations between inmates, jotted down memories in sketches and prose.
By 22, I had moved from Manila back to Bangkok and then went to work in Kampala. Over the next decade, I explored my curiosities. Theater, art, culture, music! I visited many indigenous communities and had plenty of remarkable encounters.
Life taught me to embrace the diversity of humanity. I felt most comfortable in intercultural, interracial, and even interreligious circles.
I worked with non-profits and charities, in prisons and hospital wards. There were refugees, disaster relief victims, and children with terminal illnesses. What could I do to help the little ones suffering? Nothing--except draw together, and teach them art. And so I did.
While there was often no cure for the children’s illness, art healed differently. The act of drawing or simply coloring gave them both an escape, and a return. To their childhood, to re-discover their imagination, their beautiful selves.
After holding an art exhibition in Kampala, a doctor asked me if I could paint murals on the walls of the hospital’s pediatric wards. Together with some artsy friends, we colored up those walls! I’ll never forget how some of the parents watching over their kids joined in to pick up a paintbrush and transform the walls.
I freelanced for much of my career, contributing to travel and lifestyle publications. For five years, I hosted the Living Asia Channel, a documentary show that aired in North America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. It was during a shoot in the region of Camarines Norte that I met my husband.
Shortly after the birth of my first child, I worked for Eastgate Publishing as managing editor of the Philippine Airline’s Inflight magazine, Mabuhay. This allowed me to gain deeper insights into my country of birth, and to tell local stories from a wider perspective.
Over the next decade, I experienced the usual parenting struggles. But they always took me back to the center: my creative spirit.
Writing helped me find joy on the page. It brought calm amidst the craziness and unpredictability of newborns.
In 2020, under the restrictions of lockdown in Italy, I pivoted to full-time home studio productions, focusing on producing digital audio for wellness: calming Sleep and Self-Care apps.
I am still learning to master the art of living. The wonderful thing about being an artist is that there is never a day of monotony. Painting and sketching are part of the meditative process for voiceover work and daily parenting duties. Yes, technology is changing the way we communicate. But our deep need for genuine connection remains.
There is power in the way we tell our stories: the language we use, the medium we choose, and the platforms on which we share them.
Thank you for reading mine.
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