Greetings from the Philippines

Senior Sade Dozier tells her story after visiting her family in the Philippines and experiencing their way of life.


“Her body went cold. We are rushing her to the hospital right now.”

While everyone was gearing up for finals, filling out study guides and finding that perfect outfit for New Year’s, I was preparing to fly halfway across the world to visit my aging grandmother experiencing the demise of her youth. I hadn’t seen my family in the Philippines since my mother and I had moved back to the States 12 years ago.

The 18-hr. flight left an abundant amount of time for my mind to contemplate the worst scenarios. I knew that adjusting to their cultural norms would be difficult, but I was determined to reconnect with my family and more importantly, use this time to find myself. 

Compared to lifestyle in the States, it was much simpler there. My family owns a compound, housing everyone in a 5-mile radius with our bloodline. As you can imagine, we were extremely close-knit. Being an only child, I cherished that familial support. 

Upon first arriving, every morning I’d walk my 85-year-old grandmother house to house to eat pandesal and coffee with each family. By noon, I would return to my uncle’s land and help him tend to the chickens, turkeys, ducks or pigs. The afternoons I cherished most were when the boys took me out to fish at our fishpond. I had never been one to have the patience for fishing but something about watching my flamboyant cousins catch fish or sharing the simple joys of catching a big Tilapia for dinner, made me smile ear to ear. By night, after everyone completed their daily tasks, people stood and sat on their patios watching the streets, celebrating another successful day. 

As for my cousins and me, we’d party! Partied like the sun would never shine again like every night would be our last. Although life here wasn’t perfect with the occasional family drama, we all knew and felt loved. Love walked the streets as a man. 

The most important part of our little joyous community was at the center of the compound, the church. This symbolized every member of our family’s life; Christ was at the center of all our lives. My grandmother founded five churches in our region, including one right here in Houston. Everyone played an important role. The young children would participate by singing in the youth choir. While the adolescents would perform multiple church service duties around the neighborhood, such as cleaning the church, conducting weekly bible studies, planning community activities or acting as church representatives, going on missions all around the Philippines. 

This inspired me with knowledge of ways to keep myself centered when I was having a tough time back at home. To pursue my faith head-on and find joy in the little things in life. 

My grandmother once shared the recipe for a fulfilled life with me, “Doing what you love is like breathing air. For me, the church is my oxygen. Find your thing.” 

It seems like my whole life I have been searching for the definition of happiness when all along it was right there in front of me. For me, the definition of happiness is having faith and family.