20 Filipinos to Watch

20 Filipinos to Watch

From a young age, Joseph Orobia enjoyed drawing, making and deconstructing things, and imagining new spaces.
Today, he’s an award-winning Professional Architect and Designer and one of three founders of Architects at Play, a professional architecture and design firm here in Winnipeg.

A few of their staple projects include rejuvinating the Manitoba Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre and conceptualizing and building a life-sized replica lechon (roasted pig) for the Magdaragat Philippines Inc.

Orobia is one of the founding members of Kultivation Festival, a grassroots organization that celebrates and promotes the thriving modern cultural scene in Manitoba’s Filipino community.

In addition, in his spare time, he’s heavily involved with the Filipino community through Magdaragat and the Pearl of the Orient Philippine Pavillion. Once a Folklorama performer himself, Orobia is most proud of the fact that his two kids, Lauren and Milaño, are now performers for the group, learning about their culture and sharing through music, song, dance, and theatre.

1. What excites you most about what you do?

The most exciting thing about being an Architect and Designer is that you get to shape the world around you. The feeling of seeing people walk into one of the spaces you designed or use one of the products you created is unlike any other. I get to imagine what the future should look like and bring it to life through my practice.

2. What impact have you witnessed from your work?

From the very start, Architects At Play has been focused on helping our communities through design education outreach. We believe that design thinking is a problem-solving skill that everybody should learn, and we have worked with several school divisions to teach design thinking through STEAM programs, internship programs, professional development workshops, and career fairs.

We’ve advocated for design thinking education at all levels and have created workshops and educational tools for schools to use. Through our community outreach, we’ve seen students and educators become inspired to use design thinking to solve environmental, social, entrepreneurial, and organizational problems, and we believe that this is proof our efforts are making a difference.

I’ve also been fortunate in my career to have worked on projects that significantly improved the quality of life for people.

One project I am particularly proud to have been a part of is the building of a new tunnel between the Frank Kennedy Building and the Architecture 2 Building at the University of Manitoba’s Fort Garry Campus. Although not a very high-profile project (since 95% of it is underground), It closed a section of the tunnel system loop that finally allowed students, staff, and visitors to go across campus without having to go outside. This was particularly important for persons in wheelchairs, who would otherwise have to go around two buildings and down a steep ramp to gain access to the tunnel system. It was my idea to retrofit the Architecture 2 Building elevator to stop at the ground level that ultimately made the project a success for universal accessibility.

3. Tell us a story about an obstacle you faced and conquered.

I view challenges as opportunities for growth. Before founding Architects At Play, I had become one of the most senior Architects in a well-respected medium sized architectural office. However, my dream was to build my own unique firm from the ground up. So, after 10 years of working at the same firm, I took a huge leap and started a brand new firm with two partners, Paulo Castillo and Grant LaBossiere. In a very competitive industry, the biggest challenge we faced was making a name for ourselves as the “new guys”, without stealing clients from other firms.

In order to do this, we sought to strategically set ourselves apart from our competitors, and we did this in a number of ways.

First, we gave a name to our firm, Architects At Play, that would be instantly recognizable and memorable. It also spoke to the way we practice, in that “play” penetrates all aspects of our business, from our work environment, to the way we interact with others, to the way we approach projects.

Secondly, from the very start, we focused on being very involved within our community. This included teaching and promoting design education in schools, doing volunteer photography for Folklorama, and sponsoring community organizations such as Dalagita and Magdaragat Philippines Inc.

Lastly, we focused our marketing efforts on highlighting the fact that we have the capacity and skillset in our firm to do a wide variety of architecture projects, as well as non-traditional design projects, such as industrial design, toy design, and fashion design.

In the short two-years that our business has been operating, we’ve managed to establish ourselves as a creative, fun-loving, caring firm that is ready and willing to face any design challenge.

I was born and raised in Winnipeg and have been a professional singer, dancer and actor in the world of musical theatre for 23 years, and spent nine years in Toronto as a musical theatre actor. Since moving back to Winnipeg in 2015, I have performed in shows such as: Westside Story, Shrek, Beauty and the Beast, Mamma Mia!, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, and Cinderella (Rainbow Stage), Billy Elliot (Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre) and Danny King Of The Basement (Manitoba Theatre For Young People).

I co-created Broadway Dance Convention (BDC) with my friends/colleagues Tad Kojima and Tyler Leighton. BDC is a yearly musical theatre workshop that attracts hundreds of aspiring musical theatre youth to train with theatre professionals. I’m also one of the lead musical theatre instructors at the Shelley Shearer School Of Dance where I teach nine classes. Under the mentorship of Director/Writer/Choreographer Patti Caplette at Koba Entertainment, I honed my skills in choreography and learned how she developed live stage shows. This experience was an asset in building the skill set I needed to create my own show for the Filipino community and beyond.

1. What excites you most about what you do?
I’m excited to inspire the Filipino community to pursue a career in arts and to share their stories through singing, dancing, acting,
writing, music, art and design. I want to discover the undiscovered by giving Filipinos the opportunity to use their talent to pursue a career if you are willing to put in the work.

2. What impact have you witnessed from your work?
I created Ma-buhay! Musical, a professional all Filipino musical that is being produced by Rainbow Stage, set to have it’s world premiere in 2022. It will be the first opportunity to have a professional musical with a full cast of Filipino singers, dancers and actors on stage.

The greatest impact of this project has been seen through the journey of my co-writer, co-lyricist and co-composer, Josh Caldo. I was his mentor through the DMCI Career Internship Program where I put in 30 hours of work with him introducing him to the world of musical theatre in Winnipeg. Josh and I are both signed on to a three year artist residency with Rainbow Stage to produce a full scale production of Ma-buhay! Musical. We won one of the largest arts grants in Canada through the Canada Council For The Arts and we have written over 20 songs together.

3. Tell us a story about an obstacle you faced and conquered.
The obstacle I was facing was a lack of belief that I could conceptualize a dream so big. A dream to make a real difference in the community, city and world. The key to conquer these insecurities is to: 1) trust your instincts 2) follow your heart and dream big 3) paint a vision so clear as if you already have it

4) find mentors to help you navigate through the uncharted territories 5) treat yourself with kindness, love and respect.