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Thursday, November 26, 2015

So much to be thankful for*

Thirty-two years ago, I immigrated to the United States of America. My permanent resident visa eventually changed, after five years, to a Certificate of Naturalization---that is, after I passed the U.S. citizenship test and began to pledge allegiance to The Stars and Stripes and the republic for which it stands.

I was already in the U.S. Navy before I became a naturalized U.S. citizen in January 1989. The naturalization ceremony took place in Agana, Guam, Marianas Island, where I was stationed then at U.S. Naval Hospital in Guam, a U.S. territory.

Becoming a U.S. citizen is an American dream that I believe every immigrant U.S. resident aspires for. Having a U.S. passport made me feel at home.

I have had that sense of belonging, but at the same time a responsibility that I have to uphold. Truly, I feel blessed with all the opportunities America offers me. I thank God, everyday, for my being a part of America.

My first taste of Thanksgiving Day in America was in 1983, at the home of my sister Betty and her family in San Jose, California.

New to any national holiday in the U.S., with the exception of Fourth of July, I thought that it was just another celebration with food, family, and friends. That turkey was the biggest one I've ever seen! And that was my first time to eat turkey, too, because we mostly ate chicken, pork or beef in the Philippines.

Along with my three younger siblings who came her, I had a great time with sister Betty and her family as well as the other guests who were present. There were plenty of food on the table, and we feasted while having fun watching football.

Years later, I realized the significance of Thanksgiving Day in America. It is a special day for family and friends to give thanks to Almighty God for all the blessings we have in life: food, faith, freedom, family, friends and peace. Despite all odds, we overcome and we celebrate holidays with others.

On Thanksgiving Day, I pray: "Almighty God, I thank you that we're alive and well. Thank you for all the blessings you've showered upon us: my sister Betty and her family; Aunt Emilia, our families united together in these trying times, our neighbors and friends near or far.

"Thank you for the settlers that inspired us to be brave, strong and hopeful. Thank you for our government leaders, who have worked hard to make America great. Thank you for our religious leaders for inculcating and increasing our faith.

"Thank you for our teachers, volunteers, innovators, scientists, doctors, nurses and caregivers, police officers, and our dedicated and hardworking farmers for all their efforts in making America a great and powerful nation.

"Thank you for our journalists for informing us of what's happening around the world. Thank you for our actors, singers, writers and athletes for entertaining us and reminding us that despite the issues confronting our country and the world, we can still manage to celebrate our humanity.

"Thank you, Lord, for our veterans, our service men and women who have gone or are here and abroad fighting for freedom and peace, and their families for the sacrifices they made.

"I pray, Lord, that our homeless, especially our veterans, will find shelter and comfort
 this cold holiday season and beyond. May your light and love shine before us all, Lord.

"God bless America. Amen."

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Thursday, November 26, 2015. For more information, visit

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Colonoscopy can save your life*

Health is wealth. There's no question about that. Even if you're the richest person on Earth, materially speaking, what good your wealth is if you can't enjoy life and have fun with others?

No one is responsible for your health but you. Doctors, nurses and hospital or clinic staff can only do so much. Unless you're completely invalid or incapacitated, the sole responsibility of taking care of your health rests in you.

You have to keep track of and maintain your health by having regular check-ups, especially if you feel something is not right or bothering. A pain that's been lingering on for a long time should not be ignored. If you do, you may end up with more troubles in the long run.

As a retired U.S. Navy veteran who has worked in naval hospitals and clinics for 20 years, I am aware of the importance of taking care of myself and maintaining a good health.

After 10 years, I recently has another colonoscopy. Thanks to Dr. Wilkerson and his team for a job well done.

A colonoscopy is a procedure for the examination of your colon with a colonoscope, a thin, flexible lighted tube that allows your doctor to see inside of your colon for a possible colorectal cancer, colon polyps, tumors, ulcers and other abnormalities there.

Colon polyps are abnormal growth of tissue on the lining of the colon that can be cancerous. The procedure may take half an hour to an hour or more. If your gastroenterologist finds polyps, he removes them with biopsy forceps or cold snare, a specialized tool inside the colonoscope.

The American Cancer Society recommends that individuals at average risk for developing colorectal cancer should have a screening colonoscopy at age 50 and every 10 years thereafter. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.

A week before the procedure, I strictly followed a low-residue diet, with plenty of water or clear liquids so as not to be dehydrated. The success of the exam depends on a clean, empty colon and large intestine.

A day before the exam, I started taking the bowel prep. another prep solution is consumed three hours before the day of the exam. After that I was advised to stop drinking all liquids 3 hours prior to the procedure. The salty prep solution caused frequent trips to the restroom, of course, leaving me feeling drained, bloated, hungry, tired, a little weak.

Otherwise, the procedure was without discomfort. Ready for the exam, I was sedated via an IV (intravenous) that put me to a relaxed consciousness while the gastroenterologist examined my colon.

After the procedure, I felt light-headed, a little groggy but awake. I was glad to have my wife Freny with me, because I couldn't be driving while still having the effect of that sedation. A designated driver is required after colonoscopy.

Colonoscopy is a procedure that can save your life by detecting abnormalities inside the lining of your large intestine. so, if you're due for this exam, go see your doctor and set up an appointment to have it.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald. For more information, visit

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Service improves at Hampton VA hospital*

As a retired U.S. Navy veteran with service-connected disability, I used to go to Hampton VA Medical Center. But for the past three years, I stopped going there.

Since retirement in 2005, I've been going to Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth because it's closer to my house, and I'm more familiar with NMCP, where I've worked for 11 of my 20 years in the naval service.

Unperturbed about previous issues at VA hospitals, I've visited Hampton VA numerous times. First, as a curious outpatient veteran, I wanted to experience receiving care there. Like other outpatient veterans, I had to do the required protocol: obtaining a VA ID card, scheduling medical appointments and keeping my appointments.

Despite the VA funding problems, I found a clean and pleasant atmosphere inside the hospital; I didn't see any major problems regarding care and treatment for veterans there.

Recently, after three years of hiatus and learning about VA hospital issues that, I believe, have been addressed by proper authorities, I was keen to go back again for care and treatment at Hampton VA Medical Center.

With a valid identification card, I decided to go to eye clinic in Hampton to have a follow-up eye exam and, possibly, receive new prescription glasses. The ones I'm currently wearing are kind of weak, and I believed I needed upgraded bifocals. I have difficulty reading those fine print in newspapers now.

With my doting wife and consummate driver Freny, I went to Hampton VA Medical Center in August. Freny and I breezed through the hospital and went straight up to the second floor where eye clinic is. Like others, I had to fall in line and wait for the receptionist to call, "Next veteran!"

When it was my turn, I walked to the window and showed my ID card to a receptionist, who asked me if I had an appointment, while glancing at his computer monitor, i said, "No, sir" and asked if I could be seen that day, since I'd already been there before.

Since it had been three years since I'd been there, he said, I would have to start all over as if I were a new patient. I was told go downstairs to Prime 1 and make an appointment to see a primary care doctor. Once seen by a provider there, I could ask for referral to be seen in eye clinic. That's what I did.

After a couple of weeks, I was seen in Primary Care, had some lab tests done, and then visited the eye clinic in September. A resident doctor from Eastern Virginia Medical School's department of ophthalmology examined my eyes after they were dilated.

Before leaving the eye clinic for the optical shop, I thanked Dr. Beste for taking time with me. With a new prescription for glasses and a follow-up appointment with him, which I'm looking forward to after Veterans Day, I was satisfied with my visit. Grateful I am to have new bifocal eyeglasses now.

Thank God for a significant improvement at Hampton VA Medical Center. I'm positive my fellow veterans also appreciate the smooth delivery of health care services there.

Kudos to those behind the positive change at VA. And to my fellow veterans, thank you for your service and sacrifices.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Saturday, November 7, 2015. For more information, visit

Saturday, October 31, 2015

30 years of making marriage work*

Nov. 3 is special for me. For 30 years, I have been married to Freny, my wife and the mother of my two young adult children, Andrew and Christine. To Freny and my family, happy anniversary!

Thank God, we have come this far, amidst the challenges in our marriage. We have weathered storms, fought and won battles and overcome difficulties and problems that only strengthened our relationship.

Our marriage is not perfect but solid and strong because we have vowed to stay and pray together, love each  and committed to live their lives other forever, 'til death do us part. That's our commitment, and promise to our children, relatives and friends, near or far.

I believe in the sanctity of marriage. Since the day I married Freny, I have tried to live it, in sickness or in health, and I will continue to uphold it for the rest of my life.

I'm aware the above statement has been said and written by many around the world. But it has also been laughed at or brushed aside too many times.

Sanctity is the condition of holiness or sacredness, the state of being holy, sacred or saintly. Sanctity is synonymous with holiness.

Nowadays, the sanctity of marriage has been threatened by those who question its relevance and importance in our wired world. It is a contentious issue because of alarming divorce statistics.

Marriage involves a serious commitment of two people loving and caring for each other and committed to live their lives together forever.

As the foundation of a family and the society, marriage can be defined as the legally or formally recognized union of a man and a woman (or in some jurisdictions, two people of the same sex) as partners in a relationship. It is a recognized union or legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them, first and foremost.

As a Catholic Christian, I have observed and been taught at an early age that marriage is between a man and a woman. Having been married to the same woman to whom I committed myself for life, I would safely say that I still believe in the sanctity of marriage.

In Genesis 2:24, we read: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." That thought comes up again in Matthew 19;6..."So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."

Dennis Rainey, author and host of FamilyLife Today, once wrote that marriage is a sacred covenant between one man, one woman and their God for a lifetime. "It is a public vow of how you will relate to your spouse as you form a new family unit," he wrote.

Rainey suggested four commitments to help you fulfill your marriage vows for a lifetime:

1) Do not get married unless you plan to keep your vows.

2) Fulfill your vows by staying married.

3) Fulfill your vows by maintaining emotional and moral fidelity.

4) Fulfill your vows by praying faithfully with your spouse.

There's no such thing as perfect marriage. Marriage works when spouses work together to make it work.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared  in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Saturday, October 31, 2015. For more information, visit

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Remembering my homeland in poetry*

On October 9, the spoken word was powerful and amazingly inspiring. That occasion gave me a rare opportunity to spend a Friday night in the company of friends, family and acquaintances, while enjoying prose, poetry and free pizza.

Poetry lovers like me gathered together that night at Russell memorial Library in Chesapeake for the quarterly "Open Mic Night: Prose, Poetry & Pizza" hosted by Suffolk native, poet and author Nathan Richardson. He is the one of the marketing consultants of the Suffolk News-Herald.

Though I have had poems published in my native country, the Philippines, and in the United States, I still consider myself a budding poet. I have much more to learn and experience before I can humbly say I'm a published poet. Perhaps, I will forever be a budding poet, which I don't mind at all. I kind of like the word "budding" as in "emerging, growing and developing."

During the event, I read three of five of my Ilokano poems included in the poetry anthology, "Rekuerdo/Memento: Estrangement and Homing in Ilokano Poetics," published in Hawaii in 2009. It was edited and translated into English, with critical introduction by Aurelio Solver Agcaoili, PhD.

The book presents the works of Ilokano poets writing from exile and diaspora. It articulates the sense of home and homelessness that marks the life of many people of the Philippines who have chosen---or have been chosen by life's circumstances---to leave the homeland and eke out a life in new places.

Agcaoili is the coordinator and associate professor at University of Hawaii's Ilokano Language and Literature Program, the only Ilokano-degree granting program in the world. As creative writer, he has also authored English-Ilokano/Ilokano-English dictionaries for schools and academia.

I was compelled to share my thoughts via my poems dealing with the plight of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and other migrants and refugees fleeing their country because of poverty, violence or civil war to find freedom, peace and prosperity for their families. Refugee crises in Europe and elsewhere were also on my mind.

Prior to reading my poems, I spoke briefly about my mother tongue, Ilokano, and the proper pronunciation of the vowels, like those of Japanese and Spanish.

Here's one of my Ilokano poems, "Rekuerdo iti Ipapanaw":

"Adda amak
idi pumanawak
nupay napingetak
iti panagkunak.

Adda duaduak
no agballigiak:
napigsa't pammatik
a makalung-awak.


Itan, makaisemak
pimmudno parparmatak
agpayso a nagbalbaliwak
biagko itan nawayaak.

Iti panagkalkallautangko
nabirokak gasatko
ngem daytoy iliwko
iti lugarko napalalo.

Ilik, dikanto malipatan
uray kaano man
sikat' laglagipen
aginggana't tanem."

Here is the English translation to one of my poems, "Memento of Leaving."

"I know I could do it
but there was this
fear that gnawed at me
as I was leaving.

I had those doubts
whether I could make it
but I believed in one thing:
I surely would succeed.

I went away
I went wherever life led me
I went through all the hardships
I took them all in patiently...

I prayed hard
I gave my thanks
I saved up
scrimped a lot.

Now, I smile in gladness
What I dreamed of came true
Verily I changed for the better
Now I am free.

In my going away
I found my good fate
but this missing my homeland
has gripped me so bad.

My birth-land, I will never forget:
I remember you each time
In my mind you are here
And on my grave forever."

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Saturday, October 24, 2015. For more information, visit

Post Script: My Ilokano poem, Rekuerdo iti Ipapanaw, didn't make it to the final editing in the above-mentioned newspaper. Also, when I submitted my original essay to the editor, Mr. Spears, I didn't include two stanzas (#4 and #5) of the original Ilokano poem because of word count. I should limit up to 500-word essay, but I exceeded it to a total of 700 words (as I always used to do), including my brief bio.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Learn what's going on around you*

I can't think of any reason why folks are not aware of what's happening in our world, specifically in our community. Except if they don't care.

Most of us have television at home, along with smartphones and Internet access, and we have at least one subscription to a newspaper or magazine. We also get access to this award-winning newspaper, the one we're reading right now, that has been in existence since 1873.

Most of us are involved in educating our children or grandchildren, one way or another, and we have visited or volunteered in their school. Likewise, most know where our city library is, or a neighboring city's library, and have visited it occasionally, if not regularly.

My point? Clearly and emphatically: We need to stay informed to stay active, engaged and involved.

Bestselling author and lawyer Scott Turow wrote, "Widespread public access to knowledge, like public education, is one of the pillars of our democracy, a guarantee that we can maintain a well-informed citizenry."

"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government," wrote Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United States.

Benjamin Franklin once said, "A nation of well informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins."

With the information superhighway, our world is wired and connected to help enhance education for all of us, regardless of our income level.

The Internet has revolutionized our way of thinking and living. As long as we have access to information, we are informed of what's going on in our volatile world.

This technology has kept us well-informed---even overwhelmed by a bombardment of information that we can only control through self-discipline.

The overflow of information sometimes confused us and can cause questions as to what or whom to believe. Hence, we should observe tact, vigilance, and safety---Internet safety, that is.

It takes only a few minutes to learn what's going on around us. With a browse of your local newspaper, a click of your mouse, a press of your TV remote control, a tap or a touch of your fingertip, you're getting and staying informed.

So, stay informed to stay active and alive, engaged and involved. Visit a library near you or turn on that TV or portable radio, especially when it's news time, or read your newspaper. You'll become a well-informed citizen.

Than, take whatever information you learned and use it to better yourself and others. Share what you learned. Doing so will benefit others.

Sharing truthful information to help others have a better life is a noble endeavor. To me, that's caring.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Saturday, October 17, 2015. For more information, visit

Friday, October 9, 2015

Change your attitude, change the world*

Do you want to make a positive difference in the world? Have a positive attitude.

An attitude is the state of mind with which you approach a situation. Here are a couple of examples: Maybe you tell yourself, "I'm going to get things done today." (That's positive attitude.) Or does this sound more like you? "Today will be lousy, like yesterday." (That's negative attitude.)

The day might be out of control, but the only you can control your attitude.

Attitude is so important because it affects how you look, what you say, and what you do; it affects how you feel both physically and mentally; and it affects how successful you are in achieving your goals.

Do you take positive attitude toward yourself? Do you try to learn to recognize that no one has all the  answers? Do you try to do a better job and suggest better ways of doing your work? Do you demonstrate enthusiasm in whatever you say or do?

Are you willing to grow to prepare yourself for a better job? Are you willing to welcome change---to experiment, try new ideas and stay loose? Do you cultivate a sense of humor---not taking yourself seriously---getting some fun out of your work?

Likewise, do you have a positive attitude toward others? Are you sincerely interested in them and their purposes and problems? Do you try to understand others' point of view---how they feel and why they feel, think, look and act as they do?

Are you a good listener who tries to learn something from others? Are you able to work with them to achieve common goals, and not to criticize them?

Developing positive attitudes takes time and effort. Here are a few simple attitudes that will make your life fulfilling and your family happier:

      *Keep each other informed. Good communication is the key to a good relationship.
      *Try to be punctual. It's the Golden Rule of time for everybody.
      *Try to be cheerful, even if you don't feel like it. Nobody likes a sourpuss.
      *Use polite words like "Please," "Thank you," "May I?" and "Do you mind?"
      *Try to be helpful. You'll build friends fast.
      *And try to be patient. Some things just necessarily take time time to do right.
        Patience is a virtue.        

While negative attitudes make life difficult for everyone, positive attitudes help everyone get the most out of life. Negative attitudes get you nowhere, whereas positive attitudes make every day better.

With positive attitudes, your life is more meaningful, problems easier to handle, goals more attainable, mistakes less disastrous and the future more exciting.

Talent is important, and knowledge is essential. But, I believe the most important key element to success is your state of mind.Whatever your situation or disposition in life is, success is your attitude.

A positive attitude at work can make your daily routine more rewarding and enjoyable. You can say, "I'll do my job well as I can so that others can depend on me."

Why not begin practicing positive thinking to create a positive attitude right now?

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Friday, October 9, 2015.
For more information, visit