Living in the Land of Opportunity

By Gretchen Eichenberg

The Rivera Family

Pictured: Photographs by Rachel Whyte,

To call their story epic seems overblown, but it reads like a tale from a book or another lifetime. It is the story of Sabas and Glory Rivera, Filipino immigrants who were born to poor farmers and all their lives dreamed of and worked for an education they knew would deliver them — and one day their children — from a life of poverty. The Riveras said that when they were growing up, everyone dreamed of coming to America, the land of opportunity. Education has been the durable thread in the tapestry of their lives and their family, as the two became teachers on the other side of the world and now are among Waco’s best-loved educators.

The Riveras told their story over some of their favorite Filipino dishes. As the scent of spiced meats and fresh ginger wafted about the table where we talked, stories flowed of hardship, hard work and a rare patience few practice in this day and age.

WACOAN: This food looks and smells incredible. Tell me about this colorful and fragrant dish we’re having.

Glory: It’s a traditional Filipino dish called pancit. It’s made of rice noodles and any kind of meat, either chicken, pork or shrimp. I like to serve it with spinach or bok choy and any other vegetables you like.

Sabas: It’s always served at birthday parties because the noodles signify long life.

Glory: Today we’re serving it with lumpia, or eggrolls. Like pancit, you can make it with different kinds of meat, but I prefer pork or beef. It is also filled with shredded vegetables, like cabbage, carrot, celery, young peas and jicama.

Sabas: These dishes are staples at our parties and family gatherings, even here in Waco. We like to share our culture with others.

WACOAN: Tell me a little about the place you come from, the Philippines. Give me a snapshot of your home country.

Sabas: The Philippines is a country in Southeast Asia, and it’s made up of more than 7,000 islands. During the galleon trade the Spanish colonized the Philippines, and that lasted three centuries, 339 years to be exact. So the Filipino culture is greatly affected by the Spanish. We have fiestas, we take siestas and there are a lot of Spanish words that have been adopted by the Filipino language. In 1898 the Americans came and liberated the Philippines from the Spaniards, which ceded the Philippines to the United States. They brought with them a system of education via the Thomasites. [Editor’s Note: The Thomasites were a group of about 500 American teachers who were sent to the Philippines in 1901 by the U.S. government to teach basic education and train Filipino teachers. The school they started was known as the Philippine Normal School, which became the Philippine Normal College in 1949 and the Philippine Normal University in 1971.]

WACOAN: Where did you live?

Sabas: We lived in the northeastern part of the big island, which is called Luzon. Our province is called Isabela, named for the queen of Spain.

Glory: I came from a village called Macaluat.

WACOAN: Sabas, what was it like growing up where you did?

Sabas: I belonged to a very poor family. There were five children. My father was a farmer, mostly corn, and my mother laundered clothes for the wealthy people in the town. I would help mother. I remember she would go the houses to collect the soiled clothes from the families and take them to the river to wash. I would carry the big washing basin down to the river, and I would help her hang the clothes on the line to dry. It was a hard life, but we were a happy family. We sang together. My parents met at a funeral wake, and afterward they had a sort of ‘sing off.’ The lady sings, and then the man has to sing something in response. And that’s how they were introduced.

WACOAN: You grew up poor, but your parents wanted more for you. They wanted an education for you, right?

Sabas: Yes. They knew education was the only way to get out of poverty.

Typically, Filipino parents would go to great lengths and sacrifice a lot to one day send their children to college. It would be the pride of a family to display all of their children’s diplomas, hanging in the living room.

WACOAN: In the center of the home.

Glory: Yes, parents really take pride in that.

Sabas: My two older siblings did not have the opportunity to go to higher education. My parents were really poor. When I was in elementary school, they saw promise in me because I was always at the top of the class. After high school I did not think I would go to college. But there was a government program where they were looking for scholars who we called ‘poor but deserving’ who wanted to become teachers. And I qualified for that program.

WACOAN: Did you always want to be a teacher?

Sabas: No.

Glory: He wanted to be a journalist.

Sabas: I thought I was good at writing. When I was younger and someone asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I said, ‘Write the headlines,’ or something like that. My high school English teacher told me there’s no money in journalism. She told me to get a degree I could rely on and then do journalism on the side.

So thanks to the program, I went to the Philippine Normal College in the next town. I got involved in the show choir, and that’s how we met.

Glory: Also we both worked for the student newspaper. He was the editor, and I was a feature writer.

WACOAN: Let’s pause there. Glory, tell me about your family and how you grew up. Did you two grow up far from each other?

Glory: About 6 kilometers apart. He was born in the town of Angadanan, and I was born in a nearby village called Macaluat. When you go to my village from the town, you have to cross a river, the Cayagan, which is the longest river in the Philippines. I grew up swimming in that river. I am the youngest of five children.

WACOAN: You’re each from a family of five?

Glory: Yes, three girls and two boys. All three of us girls became teachers. One sister is now in Colorado, and the other is in Australia. My older siblings couldn’t go to college right after high school because my parents could not afford to send them right away. I didn’t either because it was always about the money.

WACOAN: What did your parents do for a living?

Glory: My father was a farmer. He grew corn and peanuts. Corn was a good money crop. He didn’t have a big piece of land, just small. My mom was a seamstress. She made costumes for the town fiestas and performances. There were always many town performances, and she made all the costumes.

WACOAN: Was there a school in your village?

Glory: Yes, but it just went to fourth grade. There were only two teachers there. When you got to fifth grade, you had to go to the big town — we had to walk 5 or 6 kilometers. We walked there Sunday afternoon, so we wouldn’t be late on Monday. We stayed in a boarding house during the week.

WACOAN: You stayed in a boarding house in the fifth grade?

Glory: Yes, but it was usually with a relative. We paid a little rent and brought our own provisions. My sister was in high school at that time, so we stayed there together. My dad’s farmland was on the way to the town, so we always stopped by to pick some vegetables, like beans, to take as our provisions. We carried everything and walked the dusty roads in very hot temperatures.

Sabas: Very hot, like 100 degrees, and very humid.

Glory: It sounds hard, but I didn’t really feel like I was having hard times. I just wanted to get my education. For high school I walked the same road.

WACOAN: You were focused on your future. What did you want to be when you grew up?

Glory: When I was in high school, I wanted to be a nurse.

I remember my science teacher being impressed that even though I came from the barrio, or village, I was doing very well in the class. That inspired me to do even better.

I graduated high school salutatorian of my class, and I remember my parents were so happy and proud. All my family members came to see me graduate and get my medal. I took the college entrance exam and made a really good score. But I did not think I would be going to college right away because I knew my parents would need to save some money. You see, the only place you can go to school for nursing is in the big city, Manila, so that would take a lot of money.

Sabas: During that time nurses were very in demand in the United States. If you took nursing, you would surely be coming to the United States.

Glory: I decided I would not enter college until I could save enough to go to nursing school. I said, ‘It’s OK. I don’t have to go right now.’ So I got a job picking peanuts to help earn a little money. And then came along the same program opportunity that Sabas had, for ‘poor yet deserving’ students to become teachers. A teacher from my town delivered the letter, offering me the opportunity, but I was hesitant. She explained that it would be better to enter school and change my major to nursing later rather than wasting my time now. So I took the entrance exam, and they said I could start on Monday.

WACOAN: That was quick!

Glory: I wasn’t ready. I had to find a boarding house and get all my things together. Plus it would be expensive, even though my education was paid. But I found a place across the street from the school. Everyone was kind, and it all worked out.

WACOAN: So you were a freshman, and Sabas was a senior. How did you meet?

Glory: Well, I knew of him in high school because he was in the band and he was always on the honor roll. He was very well-known. I don’t know if he knew me, though.

Sabas: No, I didn’t.

WACOAN: She was just a lowly freshman and you were a popular senior, right? [All laugh.]

Glory: Yes, I suppose. [Laughs.]

Sabas: In college we were both in the show choir. There was a town fiesta, and the members of the college were invited to perform. She was a featured dancer but with another partner. That’s really how we met and got to know each other.

WACOAN: But you soon graduated.

Sabas: I graduated —

Glory: And he got a job right away. He graduated with honors.

Sabas: I got a job in the school where I went to school. And when Daisy was a junior, she did her student teaching in my third grade classroom. [Editor’s Note: Daisy is the nickname Glory was given at an early age. All her friends know her as Daisy.]

WACOAN: Is that when the romance blossomed?

Sabas: No, there was nothing then.

Glory: I admired him at that time. He was a very good teacher. He had a very nice classroom, and everybody loved him. All the teachers looked up to him. He was very smart, but he was like a big brother to me.

Sabas: When she graduated, she got a position at the school where I was. We both lived at the village chieftain’s house because it was the safest thing to do at that time. There was a leftist rebel army that was against the government, and there was unrest. So it was best to stay there.

WACOAN: You both lived there?

Glory: They didn’t have children, so four of us lived there and helped in the home.

Sabas: The house was on a hill in a remote village, and I would fetch the water from the pump well, while Daisy cooked with the lady of the house. We walked to work down the hill, and at the bottom of the hill there was a store.

Glory: A corner store.

Sabas: It’s where the village people hung out. As we walked by, they would call out, ‘Mr. Rivera, Miss Marcos! You are perfect together!’

WACOAN: How long was the walk?

Glory: About a mile. It was hot and dusty, or it was rainy and muddy. We walked barefoot because the road was so dusty or muddy, and we had to wash our feet when we got to school. The mud could be really deep and slippery, so he would have to hold my hand.

WACOAN: And the village people began to notice that something was developing between you two?

Glory: [Laughs.] From these walks something began to grow.

Sabas: It was just a matter of time. I asked myself, ‘Should I or should I not?’ I was going to become the big brother if I didn’t do something soon.

The village people loved us. We took the students to competitions, and we put the village on the map with our excellent student competitors who were coming from a tiny village. And they took pride in that.

WACOAN: Neither of you set out to be teachers, but you became some of the most successful, most-loved teachers in your region. When did you decide that maybe teaching was your calling?

Glory: I think I saw how we touched the kids’ lives right from the beginning. I was teaching children from a poor village, and I could relate to them because I had been in the same situation and I could share their experience. I could see the glow in their face when they learned what I was teaching them, and I loved that.

Sabas: The resources we had in our classrooms were few. We made our own charts. We had no overhead projector.

Glory: It was hot, and we perspired because there was no air conditioning, so we opened the windows to let the breeze in.

WACOAN: But you loved it.

Glory: I came to love it because of the result and the achievement of the kids.

WACOAN: And by this time were you officially dating?

Glory: Well, Sabas was going to be transferred to another school.

Sabas: There was a send-off party for me. And everyone gathered around and held hands, and we were singing. I sang, ‘Lady, are you crying? Do your tears belong to me?’ Then Daisy answered in song, ‘Yesterday — ’

Glory: ‘All my troubles seem so far away.’ And at that point I really felt something for him. But the Filipino culture is so —

Sabas: Well, you cannot be so direct. There is a modesty that is expected. You can be feeling something for someone, but you cannot show it yet. But the employment offer did not go through. So I stayed.

Glory: And you began courting me.

Sabas: Fate has always been a part of this.

WACOAN: I want to hear about your wedding.

Sabas: In the Philippines it is the groom’s responsibility to pay for the wedding. It was my moral responsibility to help my younger siblings get their education. I was helping my younger brother, who is now a teacher. So I had no money to get married. But our friends and family said if you wait until you have money, you two will never get married. They said they were going to help me with the wedding. Everybody pitched in.

Glory: It was a simple wedding but very meaningful.

Sabas: All the people came from the village where we taught. It was a Catholic wedding, officiated by a priest friend of mine.

Glory: Everything was paid for — the priest, the food, the flowers — all by friends.

Sabas: We pooled our money together to buy the wedding rings.

Glory: Since I was working, I bought my own wedding gown. It was so cheap — I went to the cheapest shop.

WACOAN: Do you still have it?

Glory: No, I left it in the Philippines. My cousin, who got married later on, borrowed it.

WACOAN: How soon after you were married did you have children?

Sabas and Glory: After a year.

Sabas: We were married in 1982, and Chester came in 1983.

WACOAN: When did you first come to the United States?

Sabas: When Chester was 3, I got the opportunity from the [Republic of the Philippines] Department of Education to go to graduate school for educational development at the University of Iowa. There was a nationwide search for scholars, and it was very competitive, but I got one of the slots. I left when Chester was 3.

WACOAN: How hard was it to leave your family and go halfway across the world?

Sabas: It was very hard.

WACOAN: Glory, were you supportive?

Glory: At first I didn’t want him to go. He was having second thoughts, but we both were thinking about a brighter future.

We knew we had to sacrifice so that he could get his master’s degree. We knew it meant the promise of a better future.

WACOAN: Did you continue working, Glory?

Glory: I did. My mom kept Chester while I went to work. My cousins helped, too.

WACOAN: Did you get to talk much during that time?

Sabas: Through letters we did. Calling was expensive.

Glory: He was very good about writing to me. He would write me every week. Sabas had friends who lived in San Francisco and all over the United States, and they would tell him he should just stay here and not go home again.

Sabas: I told them, ‘No, I have my wife and son waiting for me.’

WACOAN: After graduate school did you immediately look for work in the United States?

Sabas: No, I moved back home. It was stipulated in my contract that I must work five years in the Philippines. Otherwise I would have to repay the government for my education. I went back and was promoted to master teacher, which is like a principal. This structure was designed to keep good teachers in the classroom rather than moving to administrative-only positions. They paid us like principals but kept us in the classroom.

Glory: Both of us were master teachers when we left.

WACOAN: When did your second son, Kevin, come along?

Sabas: He was born one year after I returned. Chester was 5.

WACOAN: How did you all get to Waco?

Sabas: In 1993 I was recruited by a teacher placement agency based in Houston. Twenty-one of us came during the middle of the school year, so it was a difficult time to find a teaching job. The first place we went was Harlingen. I was not very lucky and could not get a job right away because they were hiring mostly high school teachers and science teachers but not a lot of elementary teachers.

WACOAN: That must have worried you.

Sabas: But they were hiring in Waco. So the agency loaded us up in a van and drove us up to Waco. We parked in a vacant lot near the [Waco] ISD administration building where Jimmy John’s is now. And we all got out and straightened our suits and freshened up before going inside to interview.

WACOAN: What was your first job here?

Sabas: After interviewing in the administration office, I was taken to Crestview Elementary School to meet with the principal about a job opening. She asked how I saw myself fitting into this school setting, and I told her that I’m hardworking and that I’m a fast learner and can adapt quickly. I went back to the administration building and told them that I really wanted to know if I got the job before I went back to Houston. So someone called the principal and came back and told me, ‘You got the job. You can call your wife and tell her.’

Glory: He was so happy!

WACOAN: What were some of the immediate differences you noticed in the students compared to students you taught in the Philippines?

Sabas: At that time I lived with two other teachers, and at the end of each day we would reflect on our jobs and the students. I think I was surprised that many of the students didn’t have the same appreciation or respect for the opportunity of an education as did the students in the Philippines. Certainly, there were a lot who did appreciate it and made teaching very enjoyable. But there were those students who, for different reasons, didn’t have that respect.

WACOAN: Why do you think that was, and in some cases, still is?

Sabas: In the Philippines people were eager to learn and get an education in hope of improving their situation and even getting to come to the United States. Here, kids, in a way, already had everything right before them. So maybe they were less motivated because of that.

Glory: Most of these kids don’t know the hardship of living in a poor country.

WACOAN: Glory, when did you come with the children?

Glory: A year later, after Sabas was working and had his pay stub and could get the paperwork in order, we came. I asked him if he was sure he could afford for us to come, and he said yes. I was really happy because the separation was really hard for the boys and me. Some people work in the United States, and their families stay back home. I mean, the money would go a lot farther over there, but I wanted my kids to grow up with their dad.

Sabas: I also didn’t want to come home now and then have my kids say, ‘Hey, that’s the man who sends us the money.’ [Laughs.]

WACOAN: How did you get here? Did you bring all of your belongings with you?

Glory: We flew, and no, we only brought one suitcase with us. When we first got here, things were not easy. We were a one-income family, and it was more expensive to live here. Sabas had saved up and sent us money for the fare to get over here, but once we were here, we had to start all over with nothing.

Sabas: My salary was $17,000. Seventeen thousand dollars. Daisy couldn’t work because according to the immigration law she could not work without a visa.

Glory: We didn’t have anything, and we had to pay the rent. We stayed in an apartment. We had a few friends who were already here working. So I would cook for them, and they would pay for what I cooked. I babysat their kids and did anything I could to help, mainly to stay busy. I was not used to staying home, and I felt bad that I couldn’t help him.

WACOAN: That must have been difficult.

Glory: It was very hard watching Sabas struggle with finances and not be able to do anything to help. Friends would say, ‘Come and help me with this or that,’ and they would send me home with canned goods or things like that. I always said, ‘No, no, we’re OK.’ But I was grateful because it really helped me put food on the table.

There was one time when Sabas wouldn’t be getting paid until [the following] Monday, and he only had $5. I was crying, but we didn’t show the kids that. Some meals we only had vegetables. Much later we told our friends, and they said, ‘Why didn’t you tell us? We would have helped more.’ But we had just moved here, and we didn’t know them well enough for that. We just had to be contented with what we had.

WACOAN: I think most people haven’t known that kind of hardship.

Glory: No matter how hard it got, we never bothered the government for assistance. We never went to welfare or anything like that. If we had a little food on the table, we made due. And I’m very proud to say that. We didn’t come here to be a burden to the government.

We came here because we knew we were qualified to do some work and we could help the community, which is now our community, our home.

WACOAN: You persevered.

Glory: I was determined to sacrifice. At one point I thought of returning home because I still had my job there if I wanted it. Sabas said no. I said, ‘Then how can I help you?’ I couldn’t go back to school then because I could not afford the tuition. So for my birthday, Sabas bought me a sewing machine.

Sabas: A very cheap one.

Glory: I did alterations. I made clothes. Friends would try to pay me, but I said no, so they would give money to the kids. My friends were so generous if I helped them. And I did some other work for them, like cleaning, but I didn’t want my family to know. They would insist that I take the money, so I did, and I just put it away. For several years I did this. Eventually, I had saved enough that I told Sabas, ‘Why don’t I go to [Education Service Center] Region 12 and get certified?’ He couldn’t believe I had been quietly working for this.

I had my teaching credentials evaluated, and then I went to Region 12 and interviewed before a panel who would determine if I can go get certified. After the interview I just cried. They said, ‘Why are you crying? You did very well.’ I said, ‘I’m just so thankful for your kindness. This is going to be very helpful to our family.’ They had no idea what was going on in my life and that our family needed this job so much.

WACOAN: So then you were eligible to work in the U.S.?

Glory: After I got certified and got a job, I would be able to convert that to a working visa. I had a friend who taught at Doris Miller [Elementary School], and I volunteered there, making costumes and things like that. So they knew me there. She suggested I apply at Doris Miller, and I got hired. Waco ISD petitioned for my visa, and it was approved.

WACOAN: That must have been very exciting.

Glory: Yes, but right around that time I had a baby due.

Sabas: She started a job in August, and in September, Dylan was born.

WACOAN: How hard that must have been!

Glory: It was so hard. We had a friend who came here as a tourist for six months. She stayed with us and took care of Dylan, so he didn’t have to go to day care right away. We paid her what we would have paid for day care. Later on she became his godmother. Then my sister came for six months, so Dylan didn’t go to day care for a year.

WACOAN: Give me an overview of your jobs in education in Waco ISD.

Sabas: I taught 12 years at Crestview, mostly fifth grade science. Daisy was a teacher at Doris Miller, and I moved there. We stayed there for four years before they closed Doris Miller and merged us with the new J.H. Hines [Elementary School]. We stayed there for two years.

Glory: After that I moved to Parkdale [PDS Elementary School].

Sabas: And I moved back to Crestview, and I’m still teaching second grade there.

WACOAN: You two have spent your careers in Waco schools that serve a lot of at-risk kids and kids who live in poverty. Because of your upbringing, growing up poor yourselves, do you feel you can relate to your students?

Glory: It helps a lot. I can relate to their situation. That’s why I can be more understanding of what they are going through. I always teach the kids that everything is possible and that you can be successful no matter your financial circumstances.

Poverty doesn’t have to be a hindrance to success. It should inspire you to do better.

Sabas: I take myself as an example and everything that I’ve been through, especially the last two years since I’ve been teaching ESL. I just tell them that you can be anybody you want to be — look at me. I came from a very poor family in a very poor country, and now I’m here. You can be who you want to be if you are willing to work hard.

WACOAN: How would you sum up Sabas’ best qualities as a teacher?

Glory: He is very sincere with the kids. He’s creative, and he sings to the kids. They love that. He’s like a father to lots of the kids. He brings his parenting strategies from home to the kids at school.

WACOAN: If you had to describe Glory’s best qualities as a teacher, what would you say?

Sabas: She is very hardworking. She brings to the table all her personal experiences. She is very creative. For one example, when it was close to Easter time, she put questions in plastic Easter eggs and let the kids choose an egg and answer the question. She’s always thinking about how to make learning fun.

WACOAN: Glory, you were named teacher of the year not too long after you started teaching in Waco.

Sabas: She was named Waco ISD Teacher of the Year in 2004 and Region 12 Teacher of the Year in 2005.

Glory: Two years ago I was a finalist again, and I said, ‘No, no. Give it to others.’

WACOAN: That’s such a testament to the value you brought with you after all the work it took to get where you are.

Glory: Thank you.

WACOAN: One thing that impresses me about your story is that it seems epic in the sense that it began in a faraway land and took years and years of struggle and sacrifice before you got where you are today. It didn’t come easy. A lot of times we want things to be quick and easy.

Glory: I think the best virtue that I can be proud of is to be patient.

Sabas: One example of that comes to mind when we were trying to get Daisy’s green card. We had hired a very reputable immigration attorney, but they missed some deadlines for paperwork and such. It was very frustrating, and she almost wanted to give up.

Glory: But we said, ‘No, we do everything right. We do everything by the law. And these things take time.’

Sabas: It took a lot of patience.

Glory: And faith. If you don’t have faith, you’ll give up.

Sabas: We were very lucky that Waco ISD was so supportive to petition for our green cards, even though they didn’t have a lot of experience with this. But they knew we were hard workers, and they knew our story.

Glory: And we were so honest every step of the way. When I got my card, they celebrated with us in the office at WISD. They realized how much this meant to us.

WACOAN: Education has played such a big role in the life of your family from the very beginning. Tell me about how you educated your own children. Where did they go to school?

Glory: Chester entered Tennyson [Middle School] when we first moved to Waco. He graduated valedictorian of A.J. Moore Academy and got a scholarship to University of Texas-Arlington. He got a scholarship to Baylor [University], but you know, it’s so expensive, even with a scholarship. He went to [McLennan Community College] for two years for nursing and graduated from UT-Arlington.

Sabas: He’s an OR [perioperative, or operating room] nurse at St. David’s [Medical Center] in Austin, and he’s married. He was a traveling nurse for a while and went all over California.

WACOAN: What about Kevin?

Glory: Kevin went to Waco High School and graduated in the top 10 percent of his class. He got some scholarships and is a Baylor graduate. He got an English degree and thought he wanted to teach. I discouraged him from it, not because I didn’t think he would be good at it, but because that was our life, and I wanted to be sure he was doing what he really wanted to do. He told me, ‘Mom, I think I would really like to do what you do.’ He taught at Midway Intermediate School for two years after he graduated but decided he wasn’t sure about dedicating his life to teaching the way we have. If he couldn’t give it his very best, he didn’t want to do it.

Sabas: Now he works for American Income Life Insurance. He’s a good writer and may consider pursuing that as a career.

WACOAN: And Dylan is the baby who made your life interesting and exciting in your first year of teaching in Waco.

Sabas: Dylan went with me to Crestview for pre-K and kindergarten. He went to first grade at Doris Miller when I moved there.

Glory: He came to my class for second grade. I actually had the pleasure of teaching all of the boys at one point or another. I taught Chester in sixth grade in the Philippines. Dylan went to Hillcrest [PDS Elementary Magnet School] for fourth and fifth grade and then went on to the Atlas Academy at Tennyson Middle School. He just finished his freshman year at Waco High School.

WACOAN: Dylan received special recognition, very high honors, from the Duke University Talent Identification Program a couple of years ago. Tell me about that.

Sabas: He took the ACT as a seventh grader and qualified for the grand recognition, which took place at Duke University. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Even knowing that we might not have the money for him to attend Duke, we thought he should go and experience this, so we went. We met parents of very smart children, like scary smart.

WACOAN: What activities is Dylan involved in in at school?

Sabas: He’s on the soccer team, and they had good success this year. He plays violin in the high school orchestra.

WACOAN: Is he as serious a student as you both once were?

Glory: Maybe more serious. He has good study habits, and he does very well. In his free time he likes to watch soccer and tennis on TV.

WACOAN: Any idea what he wants to do or if he wants to be a teacher?

Sabas: Let’s ask him. Dylan! [Calls him from his studies in the den.]

WACOAN: What’s the best part about being in school at Waco High?

Dylan: Waco High offers a lot of opportunities. I take all AP classes, and I’m in class with people who have a wide variety of interests through orchestra and soccer.

WACOAN: We know you are an outstanding student. Are you feeling challenged? Do you have good teachers? How big are your classes?

Dylan: My classes are definitely more challenging than ever before, and I’ve got some great teachers. The AP class sizes are good. I don’t think I have a class with more than 20 students in it.

WACOAN: I know you’ve probably heard your parents’ incredible story of hard work and sacrifice many times and again just now. It seems like another lifetime, in a way. Do you draw inspiration from it?

Dylan: I think my parents have been a great example of starting from the bottom and becoming as successful as they are. They had nothing, and now we have all this.

WACOAN: What qualities have your parents taught you that will always be part of you?

Dylan: I think the most important thing is respect. They taught me to respect everyone, regardless of who they are. You always want to show your best all the time. They have definitely taught me perseverance. And I love how they support me.

Sabas: Thank you, Dylan.

WACOAN: There’s a fairly established Filipino community in Waco, right? And Sabas, you’re the president of that organization — what is it called?

Sabas: Yes. I’m president of the Waco Fil-Am organization [Kaming mga Pinoy sa Waco]. I’m working with a lawyer to establish nonprofit status for our organization so we can do more for our community here and for people in the Philippines. We work with ministries here to support people, for instance, those who were affected by the recent typhoon there.

WACOAN: How important is it to you to hold onto the Filipino culture and the values your parents learned growing up there?

Dylan: There are a lot of positives of the Filipino culture, like respecting your elders. Also I think Filipinos have this collective nature of toughness, which I think is necessary to survive in the real world, especially when you live in America, where everything is so big and people are so competitive.

WACOAN: Is that part of why you gather as a community of Filipinos?

Sabas: Our aim is to preserve our culture and pass it on as well as to introduce it to people who might not know about it — so more people can know and share in what we enjoy about it.

Glory: We feel lucky and could not be more thankful to be living in the United States. You may not know, but people outside the United States dream about coming here. It’s the land of opportunity. Growing up, everyone dreamed of coming here. America is our home now. Our kids are more American now than Filipino, but we always tell them to marry the two cultures, put together the best of both and to enjoy that.

Sabas: One of the more important Filipino values is family solidarity, and that includes extended family. [In the Philippines] it’s not unusual to find families living together. Now we make sure to find time to be together, even though Chester is in Austin. We enjoy being together, and that is what we want our children to teach their children — that what matters most is the family.

WACOAN: Your citizenship is pending, right? What’s the timeline for that?

Sabas: It will be before the end of the year.

Glory: We will have a big celebration.

WACOAN: There’s so much in the news about immigration reform and illegal immigration. But when you hear a story about people like you two, who wanted U.S. citizenship for all the right reasons and who have worked so hard for it, going about it in all the right ways, it really sheds a different light on the subject.

Glory: Becoming a U.S. citizen will be so meaningful to me. Though the green card was really important and took away all our troubles and gave us the opportunity to work, this will mean even more. We will value our citizenship so much. It will be precious to us.