Take Your Best Shot: William Orsua

By , on March 20, 2015

William Orsua in his home, in front of some of his photographs.
William Orsua in his home, in front of some of his photographs.

For many immigrants, the journey to Canada from their original country can be as straightforward as applying and coming over if and when they’re approved.

For William Orsua, his journey to Canada was quite the opposite. It took many years, and along the way he ended up in several different countries for years at a time. It is a journey that now finds him here in Canada, with a firmly established career, a thriving side business, and a growing family.

William Orsua was born in 1976 to parents Francisco and Virginia in Quiapo, Manila. Virginia owned a dress making and tailoring shop in Manila. Francisco was a foreman working overseas in places such as the US, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, before coming home and setting up a business (a rice field and a fish pond) that was unfortunately completely destroyed in the Mount Pinatubo eruption of 1991. Despite the disaster, they found a way to survive and move on.

William described his family as middle class and hard working, an attitude that has stayed with him up to this day. He went to Emilio Aginaldo College where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy, and started working at Saint Luke’s Medical Center in Makati afterwards.

It was shortly after that William started his journey out of the Philippines.

“I bumped into this Australian guy, he’s married to a Filipino, and they met me on the job. He was representing a college in Australia, and he invited me to a seminar regarding people who want to study overseas. So I listened to it and said oh this is something quite interesting. So I told my parents and said I want to try this. I want to go to Australia,” he said.

So in 1999, with the blessing of his parents, he set off for Australia as a working student to study Information Technology. For a year and a half he studied, working as a care aide and teacher for children with intellectual disabilities on the side.

Another challenge presented itself in 2004. William went home to the Philippines for a holiday. During that time he took the opportunity to marry his long-time girlfriend, Vanessa. While in the Philippines, the company in Australia he was working for shut down, which derailed his efforts at permanent residency there. The timing was also bad in that Vanessa was pregnant with their first child, so he went and got a job at Saint Luke’s again. But the low salary made life difficult, so he went and searched for a new job.

That search led him to Saudi Arabia, where William was offered a job by a company as a Respiratory Therapist in 2006. He remained there for two-and-a-half years.

While in Saudi Arabia, William would routinely seek out other job opportunities online. His search eventually led him to contacting the Rising Sun Venture Society in Prince George, inquiring about a position as a program manager for their disability programs. The Society liked him so much that they fast-tracked him to Canada in 2008. Nine months later, he was a permanent resident under the Provincial Nominee program.

William was there in Prince George by himself for about a year, until in January 2010 when he brought his family over to Canada. Seeking to further his career as a Respiratory Therapist, they moved down to Vancouver for more opportunities, despite having no family in the city and William having only one job interview lined up. Shortly after arriving he got his job at Vancouver General Hospital, where he has been ever since.

Since arriving in Canada William and Vanessa have had two more children, and they now have a home in Vancouver.

William with wife Vanessa and their children.
William with wife Vanessa and their children.

Soul Mates Productions
Before I left Prince George, I sold my car, and the guy who was buying it didn’t have enough money. But he offered his camera to make up the difference, a DSLR (Nikon D90), and I got curious. I liked photography, not seriously, just taking photos here and there,” he said.

After finding out how much the camera was worth, William accepted the trade.

“So then I took it, I moved to Vancouver, I started playing around with it, looking at what a DSLR is on the internet. I noticed that there’s a lot of things you can do with it,” he said.

William started shooting landscape photos and pictures of his kids. He got into it a little more seriously, studying articles on the internet and shooting more photography. He spent money getting better gear and investing in workshops. He connected with other Filipino photographers in Vancouver.

The time and money William spent on photography started getting him in trouble with his wife.

Something needed to be done.

“I started taking the challenge and just taking some jobs. So I started doing portraits, and then I started shooting events,” he said.

William started photographing weddings, something that he found he really enjoyed. It was going so well that in 2011 he opened up his own company: Soul Mates Productions.

Soul Mates Productions is a professional photography company that specializes in weddings, events, portrait, and lifestyle shots. Through Soul Mates Productions, William has honed his craft and expanded his network.

Wreck Beach landscape photo by William Orsua.
Wreck Beach landscape photo by William Orsua.

William and his photographer friends would produce workshops, where they bring in well-known photographers from the Philippines to impart their knowledge to local photographers. He would take photos of community Filipino events for free. When Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda hit in 2013, he and his photographer friends organized a special photography session where they raised $2600 to go directly to the victims in the Philippines.

Ever since his days in the Philippines, his first journey out to Australia, then Saudi Arabia, and eventually in Canada, William has been a risk taker, and he says it is something that has consistently brought him success in his life.

“I’m the type of guy who takes a lot of risk. If I want to do something, and it’s what I really want to do, I will take the risk and just do it. And somehow, I always believe in that because if you really want to do something, I think you can do it, and it will always work out. It’s always been a value that I have in me. That’s why I guess I got to do a lot of things even though I have a very busy lifestyle,” he said.

And indeed William does have a very busy lifestyle. He is the primary breadwinner in the family, working full time at VGH and Soul Mates Productions on the side. Vanessa stays at home to raise the children until they’re old enough for school.

“One big mistake that I notice for a lot of people living here, especially a lot of the immigrants, is both of them working so hard that they don’t have time for their family . . . because when both of you are working full time, stressed out at work, and you come home, you have to spend time with the kids, do the chores, and of course because you are both so tired and stressed out, you can often end up in some fight or argument,” he said. William also added that they would need to pay for daycare for their kids if Vanessa worked, and it just wouldn’t be worth it overall.

It’s a system that is working well for the family. Sitting in his home, where this interview was conducted, the children were running around playing, laughing and happy, and pictures of his smiling children adorned the walls. It has allowed him the extra energy to put towards Soul Mates Productions, of which he has big plans for.

“There’s so many photographers nowadays . . . I want to be different. I want to be an inspiration in photography, to be regarded as a great photographer who does an exceptional job,” he said.

In two years or so, William hopes to expand Soul Mates Productions enough that it can become his full-time work. His dream is that within five years, Soul Mates Productions will be known across North America as an organization that produces exceptional photography.

And William hopes that by his actions, he will inspire other Filipinos to be their very best too.

“I want to inspire most of us Filipinos to step out of our comfort zone and try and do something that will make is the best, not just be ordinary citizens. To make a difference,” he said.