Nikko Natividad as a hands-on dad

The first things you'd love about Nikko Natividad are his humor and charisma. But on rare occasions, such as this interview with Karen Davila where he got to unveil the still unknown pieces of his life story, we learn that there's so much more to him than his funny, confident demeanor.

Nikko met with Karen at a beauty salon owned by actress Jennylyn Mercado. When asked why the choice of location, he explains that he wants to reminisce about his past gigs, as he used to work as an assistant staff in a salon.

He became a salon staff at 18, specifically an assistant to senior stylists such as the now-makeup artist to the stars RJ dela Cruz. He used to assist RJ in doing the makeup of celebrities like Solenn Heussaff and Georgina Wilson. “May time pa nu’n habang shino-shoot si Solenn Heussaff, sabi [ni RJ], ‘Lagyan mo siya powder.’ Sabi ko, ‘Ay, hindi po ako marunong.’ Nanginginig ako kasi hindi naman ako talaga marunong,” he reminisces.

Working in a salon as a straight man, Nikko faced judgment and stereotypes. He often found himself mistaken for being gay, with people speculating about his relationships with other gay stylists. However, Nikko took these assumptions in stride, saying in jest, “Mukha kasi akong pera.” He was determined to earn a living, and at the same time, he enjoyed making friends with the gay community. This explains his expertise in gay lingo.

While demonstrating his knowledge about hair coloring to one of the clients at the salon, Nikko relates the joy he felt when he earned his first 500 pesos as a salon assistant, which was more than he earned as a restaurant server, where he was paid only 39 pesos per hour and worked approximately 4 hours a day.

In high school, he would earn small amounts, ranging from 20 to 30 pesos, by washing jeepneys in Bagong Silang where his family used to live. This was his way of supporting his needs, as he didn’t want to burden his parents. “Kung hindi mo kayang makatulong sa parents mo, huwag ka na lang din maging pabigat. At least may sarili akong kinikita.” Additionally, during college, he worked as a part-time wedding coordinator on days when he didn't have classes.

He also tried his luck abroad as a florist at the age of 19. Faced with an enticing offer of around 16,000 pesos per month, he felt compelled to fake his credentials, claiming to be a professional florist in the Philippines. His ‘kabayans’ knew just by his awkward handling of scissors that he was unfamiliar with the craft; however, they supported and graciously taught him the skills of floristry. Though his contract was initially set for two years, Nikko returned home after just six months due to his grandmother's passing. His family then encouraged him to stay and look for another job in the Philippines since he couldn’t stand the feelings of loneliness as an OFW. Nikko heeded their advice and resumed working as a waiter, this time as a full-time employee.

Through his ‘diskarte’ and various odd jobs, Nikko learned the values of discipline and hard work, “At saka doon ko napatunayan na lahat ng trabaho mahirap. Lahat ng trabaho nakakapagod.”

“Makapal mukha, hindi nahihiya,” he describes his younger self. Despite his family not being extremely impoverished, they experienced ups and downs in their finances. Thus, he knew what it felt like to have periods of both abundance and scarcity. His father worked as an OFW in Japan, and while he consistently managed to lift the family out of financial downturns, there came a time when they faced significant challenges. It was during these difficult moments that Nikko realized the importance of self-reliance.

 

Growing up independent

Nikko’s parents separated when he was young, thus he grew up in the care of relatives while his father worked abroad until he was 14 years old. During this period, he would only get to spend a few weekends with his mom, who already had her own family. When asked how he felt about his setup with his mother at the time, he simply remarked, “Wala naman akong dinamdam.”

The Hashtags member talks about these things almost nonchalantly, yet it must have been hard for him growing up in such a situation. “Siyempre, may mga birthday, Pasko, Family Day na ang uma-attend tita mo, lola mo.” That’s why now that he’s a father himself, Nikko vows to always be present for his son.

Nikko's goal is to cultivate a strong bond with his son, hoping to be seen as not just a father, but also a best friend. He wants his son to feel comfortable confiding in and hanging out with him. In fact, just before this interview, he dropped his son off at school, emphasizing his commitment to being an involved parent.

“Gusto ko hindi siya maiilang sa akin. Kasi ganu’n ‘yung nararamdaman ko ngayon sa Mommy at Daddy ko, parang nahihiya ako. Hindi ako galit sa kanila, pero hindi ako ganu’n ka-close sa kanila,” he admitted.

“Mahal ko sila kaso parang nasanay ako na wala sila,” he added. “’Yun ang ayaw kong maramdaman ng anak ko, ‘yung masanay siya na wala ako. Nakakatakot, ‘di ba?”

But this doesn’t mean that he sees his mom and dad as bad parents, “Kasi ‘’yung relationship nila nu’ng naghiwalay sila, ‘yun talaga naging kapalaran nila. Labas na ako do’n. Hindi ako galit kung bakit sila naghiwalay. Maaaring hindi lang talaga sila nagkasundo," he mentions that his mom was also apologetic for how their family’s situation had unfolded. “Tanggap naman namin,” he says.

 

Of life-changing moments

His life improved dramatically after joining the “Gandang Lalake” segment on “It’s Showtime” and took home 300,000 pesos as the grand winner. “First time kong makahawak ng ganu’n kalaking pera. Pero sa totoo lang dumudulas lang siya.” He quipped, “Lalo na biglang dumami kamag-anak ko nu’n.” He used the money to support his wife during her pregnancy at the time and also extended assistance to his relatives.

Believe it or not, Nikko initially felt shy to audition for the contest, but he mustered the courage for the sake of the cash prize. He went there just to win the prize money, knowing it would be a big help for his wife’s pregnancy. Never in his wildest dreams did he think it would lead him to be discovered as an ‘artista’.

Besides the changes in his financial health, the most significant transformation that occurred in his life was his personal growth. He became a better man for his beloved wife, Cielo. He admitted to his past struggle with alcoholism, but has since evolved and matured into a dedicated family man.

Asked what made him change, Nikko looked back at that moment when he witnessed his wife in despair due to his alcoholic behavior and its consequences. Overcoming it was a long and gradual process, thus he appreciates Cielo for standing by him despite his struggles with alcoholism and difficult financial situation at the time.

In his wedding vow in 2021, he told Cielo, “Dumating sa punto ng buhay ko na sobrang sama ko pero hindi mo ako binitawan.” He acknowledged that when he hurt Cielo, it was his responsibility to mend that hurt, even though it took years of healing for the both of them.

Nikko acknowledges that he hasn't yet reached the peak of success in his career and finances, but he is certain that he has already succeeded as a husband and father.

*Photos credit to nikkonatividad IG