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DLSL Alumna Richie Tumambing: Destined to be an Architect despite the Twists of Life that came her way

Image from Richie Tumambing.
Sometimes, God just finds ways to nudge you back in the direction you are meant to take. Or so thinks De la Salle Lipa high school 1988 graduate Richie Tumambing. Make that Architect Richie Tumambing. She was proprietor of the Fitness-A Gym at the Big Ben Complex in Lipa City; but then, after a while, started to feel unhappy that the gym was not taking her to where she wanted to be.

This was in 2005. She took her unhappiness as a sign that she was being nudged by God back along the path she started to travel eighteen years earlier. She was almost at the finish line, but then the foibles of youth pushed her off the track.

“I got pregnant,” she said with the sort of candor that was just so Richie Tumambing.

She was just nineteen or so units short of obtaining her bachelor’s degree from one of the best schools of architecture in the Philippines, at the University of Santo Tomas. It was not really her dream to become an architect, Richie said honestly. It was her mother’s; and like most mothers, her logic was irrefutable.

“My Mom told me that it was her dream to have an architect in the family,” Richie confided. “What I really wanted to be was a lawyer.” Her Mom insisted that she got herself a degree in architecture first then she could go on and pursue law afterwards if she still wanted to. Richie let her have her way.

So off she went to España after graduating from De la Salle Lipa, equipped with a Lasallian education courtesy of the Christian Brothers; and despite her misgivings about taking up Architecture was nonetheless eager to swap the green and white for the gold of the university.

Being Richie, she breezed through the first four years of her program with hardly a fuss. This was just as her third year high school aptitude test, administered by the DLSL Guidance Office, predicted. Richie could not understand why because she had been planning for a career in law; but the aptitude test recommended that she build instead a career in Architecture.

But then, in 1993, just a semester short of graduation, she found out that she was with child.

Childbearing and raising her son as a single mother would ultimately mean a twelve year hiatus away from her pursuit of a degree in Architecture. That it was a struggle is probably an understatement; but she plowed on as was, perhaps, only to be expected of one with determination built right into her DNA.

In the process, she went into various endeavors to sustain herself and her growing child: taught aerobics; worked as an agent in a local call center; sold interior design products; and ran a fitness gym.

Richie with her son, for whom she gave up most of her life before returning to live hers and fulfill her destiny.  Image from Richie Tumambing.
To finally be able to return to university in 2005, she sought the assistance of a benefactor just so she could obtain a sponsorship from a bus company. “The daily commute to Manila cost ₱250,” Richie narrated, “but at the time I hardly had any money.”

But complete the Architecture program she did in just one semester, after which she underwent the required internship under local architect Elmer Borlaza. Having completed the required 1,800 hours of “mentorship” under Borlaza, she was eligible to take the Licensure Examination for Architects, which she passed in January of 2009.

Richie presently owns her own home-based company called RichMan Designs and Consultancy. She considers the design and renovation of the Victory Church in Lipa as her most challenging project to date; albeit she also considers it the most fulfilling. She considers Residential Architecture, however, as her specialization, and has designed houses for clients in Alabang, San Pablo City, Cebu City and, of course, Lipa.

Early this year, Richie was elected President of the Lipa chapter of the United Architects of the Philippines, a nationwide organization started in 1975. The Lipa chapter was granted a charter only in March of this year, starting initially with 26 members but presently already has 34.

The local chapter’s vision is to provide service to its members, promote the profession locally and to be able to give back to the community. At present, it is also working with the local council to have the Architecture Law implemented in Lipa. This law requires, among others, that an architect’s signature be obtained for building plans before construction can commence.

To make up for lost time, Richie enrolled in the Master of Architecture program of the University of the Philippines in Diliman. Since she started late in the practice of the profession, she explained, a master’s degree would raise her competitiveness in her profession. She is just a thesis away from the degree.

Meanwhile her son, for whom she gave up most of her life before returning to live hers, is also on the cusp of his own degree, also in Architecture, from National University. Richie’s Mom, who passed away recently, will undoubtedly be smiling in Heaven at the prospect of having not just one but two architects in the family.

And the dream of being a lawyer? “Let me worry about my master’s thesis first then I will take it from there…”

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