The Road Less Travelled: A Journey to Becoming a “Tambay” Architect

By: Ar. Pia Marie A. Uy
Batch 2009


Alas! We are now graduates!

There are only two popular roads to becoming an architect after graduation. You either choose to take the first road where it leads you to the concrete jungle of Manila. Manila - where opportunities are many and the stressors are plenty; thus, your life is shorter. But there is the second road. It's a relatively easier road than the road to Manila – the old and familiar road of your own province. However, unlike Manila, opportunities in the province are scarce and life is slower BUT definitely a lot simpler and cheaper.

Backtrack to 2009, I chose that old and familiar road. I will always be grateful to Ar. Leo del Rosario for endorsing me along with some of my classmates to work as a planner/ designer for a mall in Legazpi. Hence, a few days after graduating, I was already employed.

In 2012, I finally became a Licensed Architect and got married in the same year. I was still on that same old familiar road. But work opportunities in the province were very few, and for the architects, there were none at all. Hooray! I was an unemployed licensed architect for 7 months until the gates of heaven opened and sent me a job. Finally, no more bumming!

I was very enthusiastic when I began working in 2013 as Architect II. It was my first job as a Licensed Architect, after all.  And the pay was also good. From 2013 to 2016, I designed, monitored, and supervised more than 60 healthcare facilities in Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, and Sorsogon. These healthcare facilities catered to the underprivileged community who cannot afford either a private doctor or a private hospital. Over the course of those years, I learned that maintaining a close relationship with the community is the prerequisite to creating a project that matters and has a lasting impact. Architecture becomes invaluable when it responds to the needs of the community more than anything. It is not just an art but an advocacy meant to empower people.

Unfortunately, that enthusiasm has waned. I was no longer seeing that advocacy in the very own walls of the office where I worked. The work already felt empty and useless. I just had to leave. But Leaving meant becoming unemployed again while having that need to feed my lovely kids. And finding a job that pays well in the province was almost impossible. Nonetheless, I braved the unknown road this time.

This was a road less travelled.

I took the unpopular road; the road less travelled. The road to becoming a “Tambay” Architect. But then again, I am not your ordinary “Tambay” Architect because while being one, I earn dollars. No! This is not a scam. This is self-reliance, diligence, and discipline; just to name a few.

I now work fulltime as an Architect/ Designer for an Interior Design company in the US. We design luxury vacation homes for our clients. I also work as part-time Compliance Officer for a Design and Construct company in Australia. And how's that even possible without leaving my home and just staying with my kids here in the Philippines?

You only have to make a fruitful use of the internet. There is a gem that hides inside your internet-powered computers. I belong to a growing community of Online Freelancers in the world, and yes, generally speaking, I am called an Online Freelancer and not just a mere “Tambay”. There are only a few Filipino architects who work as an online freelancer. So if you are brave enough, you too, can take this road less travelled and find that gem!

You could have probably been plagued by the fact that we have to be world class in order to be not left out by foreign countries. Foreign architects are such a big competition! I am a “no big name” in the field of architecture in the Philippines but I can say I am globally competitive. Well of course, I am a product of a world class institution – Bicol University. But without leaving the confines of my home, I get to work with different clients around the world. I have worked with clients from the US, Australia, Canada, China and Bahrain; again, while being comfortable in front of my desk at home. Who said becoming globally competitive isn't easy?

I rarely leave home. And how do Filipinos usually prejudice someone who stays at home all days of the week? A “Dakilang Tambay”, right? I am a tambay and an architect; thus, the term, “Tambay” Architect. But I don't mind being called one because this job pays well. But on a much serious note, by becoming an Architect who does online freelancing, I get to not just earn a lot (well just enough to be comfortable) but LEARN A LOT. There are things I couldn't have learned had I stayed with the two popular roads and with my previous office job.

Learning from this online works, especially from the experience of working as a Compliance Officer in Australia, I have seen how much the Philippines is lacking Planning and Design. Our country definitely has a long way to go to improve on these areas. I hope that someday, I could also impart what I have learned from these clients all over the world to you. So that one day, as architects, we can be hand in hand in improving our communities, and our country.