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Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween! Happy All Saints' & Souls' Day, too!

Strange false faces, costumes, too / Let’s go out and all say Boo! / I’m so scary so are you! / Boo! There you go! Treat or trick?”


Happy Halloween, everyone! Are we ready with our candies to give out or share? How about our children? Are they ready with their Halloween costumes or outfits? Have we decorated our front doors or yards with seasonal flags, carved pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns and other Halloween decorations?


In my walking around my neighborhood the past days, I have noticed some houses with artsy, colorful, kind of ugly and scary decorations displayed on their front yards. I saw a big spider web that covered almost entirely one of the windows in one house. There were decorations of creepy creature-like zombies in another house’s front lawn. But, of course, we have seen big pumpkins on the front doors of other house.


I  imagine there will be young and older children in their Batman, Superman, Captain America and/or little princess attire. Some will be dressed up in just casual outfit with their plastic or canvas bags on hand, hopeful for an assortment of sweets or goodies.Likewise, there will be those older kids dressed as ugly, scary beasts, vampire-like creatures or witches.


Children will be going door-to-door around the neighborhood, escorted by their parents, greeting the homeowners with a shout of “Trick or Treat!” while the latter have prepared some chocolates, candies, goodies and all sorts of sweets to give away.


The tradition came to North America from Ireland more than a century ago. Today, it has become a big business industry, from Hollywood to the aisle of the nearest discount store. But kids of all ages get a kick out of the cheap thrill of a good ghost story, and they abound this time of year. It’s just an indication that fear is part of life. Hence, we’re good at laughing out our fears on!


I do believe that it’s normal to be afraid sometimes, and it’s okay to have fun with that fear sometimes. Yes, we do celebrate, and capitalize on, the “ugly” and “scary” part in us! Isn’t that awesomely strange or weird? Yeah, we’re humans with fears and insecurities. But, we have a way to deal with our fears and that is, to laugh at our fears on! Thus, this celebration of Halloween is a manifestation that we know how to deal with and capitalize the business of fear.


On the other hand, back in the days when I was younger, in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, I don’t remember having this Halloween event for children. Instead, we go clean public cemeteries the last week of October. Then, we paint or repaint the gravesites or tombs of our dead loved ones in anticipation of All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2. In addition to remembering our deceased loved ones, we also give honor to the Church’s saints. We believe these saints inspire and guide us in our daily lives. We ask (for) their intercession so that our prayers become meaningful, and we hope our prayers and hopeful wishes will be granted.


In the Philippines, we go to the cemeteries in late afternoon, lit candles at the tombs and offer prayers, flowers for our dead. (In other parts of the country, people have this practice of offering food for their dead. They place food items on the tomb.) At times, Mass for the dead is said in the public cemetery by a town priest or pastor, who then blesses and sprinkles “holy” water on the gravesites.


The two-day Church observance is a great opportunity to connect or reconnect with friends and family members who may have been away from the community. Public and private schools and universities are closed. It’s like Memorial Day in the Philippines. But, they observe it not only for one day but two consecutive days.


To all the kids in all of us, have a safe, fun Halloween! And to all Catholic Christians and other Christians around the world, Happy All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day!

-CHRIS A. QUILPA, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, resides in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Are You Ready to Serve?*

We have some important decisions to make by Election Day (November 4), and they should involve thoughtful consideration of the definition of "public servant."

A public servant, according to Dictionary.com, is a person holding a government office or job by election or appointment.

Examples include police officers, paid or volunteered firefighters, health officers, the public works director, city clerk, code enforcement personnel and personnel authorized to enforce city ordinances, statutes and codes.

(For the purposes of the Electoral Act, "public servant" is defined more broadly, notably including a person in the Education Service as defined in the State Sector Act.)

Here's my personal perspective on what it takes to be a public servant. If you're a public servant, you're prone to scrutiny by the public and the media. That's the price you have to pay. Your actions and decisions are being analyzed and, at times, criticized.

Your critics and detractors are on constant watch and may be critical of the actions you take.

As a public servant, you are accountable for your actions. You are responsible to your constituents who supported you, financially or otherwise, and to the whole populace,who look up to you for your leadership, honesty and integrity.

Leadership and transparency are two qualities I'm looking for in a public servant. He or she should lead by example. What he or she preaches, he or she should practice.

I want a public servant who is trustworthy, one who genuinely serves the public and not the other way around. If he (or she) has a conflict of interest in serving his people, he (or she) should have no business governing or leading the people. He should put his or her own welfare aside for the public's welfare.

You cannot serve two masters at the same time. Where lies your interest? Your own personal interest or the people's business? If your interest is not in the welfare of the people who elected you, then you have no business working in the government. Make way for a true and sincere servant of the people.

Politicians take heed. You volunteered to serve the public. Therefore, you are obligated to serve in the best interest of the people whom you represent. You are not in the office to make yourself rich, at the expense of your constituents.

Don't let your people down. If you do and become corrupt or ineffective and unresponsive to their needs, you lost their trust and respect. They will find a way to remove you from your office. Don't ever think that, because you're powerful, you can't be replaced. The electorate is not dumb.

Are you ready to serve and promote a safe, peaceful, progressive community, to govern us in a manner that exemplifies true public service?

Are you ready to go out personally to listen to or feel the pulse of the community? Are you ready to sacrifice your time, talent, and treasure where needed?

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com. (Visit and subscribe to his YouTube channel, Chris Quilpa, for more short, random videos.)

*Published in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Saturday, October 18, 2014. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald. com.
 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Get Educated About Elections*

With midterm elections a month away, campaigns are now in full swing.

Are you ready to cast your vote Nov. 4, this year? Have you decided whom to vote for? How well do you know the candidates? What do they stand for? What's their platform on issues pertinent to unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, obesity, school dropouts, crime and so on? Will you vote your conscience or party affiliation?

Suffolk voters will choose candidates in Senate and House of Representatives races, as well as members of the City Council and School Board.

It's that time of year when candidates are busy reaching out to the electorate with their best rhetoric and promises.

We are bombarded with political ads everywhere. Some of the campaign ads are getting nasty, confusing and downright misleading. Political pundits are commenting on the various candidates and journalists are interviewing and profiling candidates.

Of course, money plays a major role in politics. The more money politicians raise, the more political ads they can buy. Here in Suffolk, VA, the Suffolk News-Herald reported on Sept. 21 that, in the City Council race, three challengers had outpaced incumbents in campaign fundraising and spending.

But more money raised does not necessarily translate to more votes.

We need to be informed about the candidates and their take on issues pertinent to community challenges. We need to know the facts and the truth before we decide who gets our votes. There is still (ample) time to do your research.

If we want our government to be responsive to our needs, we have to elect the candidates who will put public interest first, rather than personal welfare.

As responsible voters, we must do our part to become informed and educated. Do your homework to learn the facts and don't rely on hearsay. Read everything you can about the candidates running in your area. Don't just vote for a candidate because he or she looks appealing; learn about his or her stands on the issues, and get to know a little about their background and accomplishments.

And don't forget, your vote counts.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk, VA. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Published in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Saturday, October 4, 2014. Visit www.suffolknewsherald.com, for more information.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Unprecedented & Unexpected: Touring a Naval Submarine!

(Blogger's NOTE: It's been a week today but I can't still get out of my head that Sunday special treat I have had from an unexpected person I met and unexpected place I was into...Thanks to this cool, accommodating Sailor/Naval Officer named George who made it possible. Thanks to Sailor Keller, too, for his professionalism and service. Here's my recollection of last Sunday's special...)

Sunday. 14 Sep 2014. I have said this before that, of all the days of the week, my favorite is Sunday. Why? Simply because it's one of the two weekend days in which most of the populace are at home, not working, with the exception of those scheduled, and those who have duty watch, militarily speaking. Plus, it's the time for family and friends to get together in church and, later, for lunch.
What makes last Sunday extraordinary or special? Well, let me explain. After attending or participating in Sunday Mass at our parish, St. Paul's Catholic Church in downtown Portsmouth, my wife Freny and I, together with sis-in-law Rose and our family friend Myrna (her husband Mike declined our invitation to join us) have decided to go to Norfolk Naval Station (NAVSTA) where we had lunch at NEX (Navy Exchange) Food Court. (BTW, our consummate driver is none other than my wife Freny.) We ate Mexican, this time. That is, we had burritos and tacos (soft and crunchy! Note: I used "crunchy" as opposed to "hard" tacos because it may connote something...You know what I mean?) Anyway, for drinks, we opted for sweetened, iced-tea.
We had a good time there, enjoying the camaraderie and fellowship while savoring Mexican food.
Guess where did we go after lunch? Freny drove us around the largest naval base, specifically to the area where small and mammoth ships and submarines are docked, by the pier-side.
As a retired U.S. Navy veteran, I always feel a connection with where I was and what I've been witnessing...our naval vessels that have been charged with patrolling our sea lanes and oceans around the globe. The naval power we project is something so important yet interesting. For centuries, we have done  extraordinary feat of maintaining freedom and independence, and safety of our oceans which are vital to global commerce and trade. On the other hand, our Sailors have played major roles in the overall peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts, and naval exercises involving other countries.
I said I feel connected to these ships, even if, I tell you now, in my twenty years of serving honorably and proudly in the United States Navy, I haven't been stationed in or on board a naval vessel, with the exception of that training ship, USS Never Sail, while in boot camp back in the mid-1980s. The question is: Does that mean I am or was not a real Sailor? You be the judge, my dear folks and friends. But in all honesty, I have religiously upheld the Navy traditions and core values of Honor, Commitment, and Courage. Yes, I'm very much aware of the fact that I didn't have what you call "sea duty," that all I have had were "shore duty," mostly at naval medical clinic and hospitals. My only overseas duty was my assignment to U.S. Naval Hospital Guam. Well, with the early evolution of the Gulf War, with Operation Dessert Shield/Storm, I was on the alert status. My sea bag was ever-ready. On my part, I had no choice but to be ready. (Almost 60-65% of our staff-personnel in that clinic were  deployed. Thus, we had a skeleton crew. That is, we had either one or two military personnel in each department. In my department, it was only me and my chief.) Yes, I admit, I wasn't mentally ready but I would say I was because I have had to be ready to go if or when called upon to help in accomplishing the mission.
Last Sunday, to me, was a special one. I'm so thankful and glad that a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity took place in my life. Such an experience was truly unprecedented and unexpected: touring a naval submarine in commission. Yes, I did it! Never in my mind had occurred to me that I would be touring a submarine! Thank you, George! You made it happen, Sailor/Submariner! Without you, I would have not been inside a submarine. Never in my wildest dream that I would be inside a submarine!
Well, it was happenstance how and when I came to meet George, the "third man in the chain of command," he said. I couldn't believe it...my first time to be in a submarine! How did it happen?
I met George at that parking lot by the pier where those ships and submarines were docked. I was still in our car that was parked on the parking lot facing the water, with the ships from a distant, with my company: Freny, Rose, and Myrna. We're admiring those ships...In shorts and T-shirt, he was walking towards the gate guarded by a couple of Sailors. Upon seeing him, I immediately called his attention and asked him if he could give me and my company a tour of his ship. I walked out of our car and was enthusiastically happy to meet and come to know him. Approaching him, he asked me for my military ID card which I gladly showed him. We exchanged pleasantries. Then I told him I'm retired from the U.S. Navy, after 20 years of honorable service.
It was my turn to ask him about himself, too. As we were walking side by side as if we've known each other before, after entering the gate, he said he's from Philly. I could sense that he's cool and respectful Sailor/naval officer. He hinted, too, that he may give me and m y company a tour.
OMG, I felt an aura in my head and my excitement was building up. I told him briefly about my work history while still active duty. We continued walking towards his sub. He's got a board meeting, he said, but would send someone to give us a tour, as he walked his way to the sub. (At that time, I was about to say, "Permission to come aboard, Sir," but I held that thought as he breezed his way to the plank and into the sub.) I don't know if he heard me say, "Thank you, George." I did it several times, though.
Momentarily, as soon he disappeared from view, a young Sailor showed up and anxiously met us. I introduced myself and thanked him for taking the time to give us a tour. He said, "no problem." Sailor Keller did give us a brief overview about the sub before he guided and lead us inside, one at a time. I can say, he did his best to show us and explain to us where he works, areas of the sub that are not off limits to visitors and guests. He mentioned, though, that his crew is anticipating a public official to have a tour, too. No wonder a couple of Sailors were, at that time, busy trying to tidy up some spaces there. All I felt was awe and amazement at what I was witnessing inside a sub. What I've seen in movies became a reality to me.
Indeed, my submarine tour was one that's unforgettable and unprecedented, and unexpected! I thanked Keller and did tell him to convey my sincere gratitude to George. As to souvenir photos, thank God, we had two. Sailor Keller made it happen for he volunteered to take the photos for us. (Freny's camera has them. My smartphone/camera was "acting up" or not functioning well that time, too bad. But, hey, my wife has the proof we've been there in that sub. But the photos were taken outside of the sub, though.)
After the tour, I thanked Sailor Keller for his professionalism and service. I reiterated my wish to extend my gratitude to George for making my once-in-a-lifetime sub tour possible! (At that moment, I offered my silent prayer of thanksgiving to God and prayed for the safety and good health to all of our servicemen and women  who are stationed everywhere...May God bless them always!)
What did I not expect to see by the same pier where we just had a tour? Chris, my fellow retired "shipmate" who also worked at NMCP while I was there...What a coincidence! He and his wife and another mid-grown female were there and presumably waiting for their turn to tour the sub, too. As usual, we did shake hands and exchange pleasantries , then we had a brief conversation as we introduced each other's company. In short, we bid goodbye to each other.
I felt so good that day, especially those moments when George and I were walking side by side while exchanging casual talks as if we've known each other for so long. I was extremely happy when we were touring the sub. I can say with pride, "Mission accomplished!" Btw, what's the name of the sub, you ask? I give you clues: Named after a city in Montana; A Los Angeles-class submarine; It's motto is "Proud and Fearless." Commissioned in 1987, and currently homeported in Norfolk, VA. It's USS H...(SSN 725).
Yes, dear folks and friends, seize the moment when there's a rare opportunity to experience something good that comes your way. Mind you, I had my first opportunity to travel abroad, in Europe, specifically in Italy, prior to emigrating here in the U.S. before. And, I considered myself fortunate that time. So, don't let any opportune moment pass or slip by. Dreams do come true, I believe, when you least expect them. So, keep on dreaming! Be good always! Such a random act of kindness, manifested by George to me and my company that Sunday afternoon was a blessing to me. Again, thank you, George, for all that you do. God bless you and your family and fellow Sailors everywhere! God bless US always!

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Go for A Walk this Fall*

(Author's NOTE: As summer is winding down, the season of Fall or Autumn is just around the corner. Noticeably, the weather is getting cooler; leaves of trees are starting or have started to fall on the ground, and their colors are changing, from green to yellow to brown. As the song goes, "Autumn leaves start to fall..." Fall foliage is a delightful treat to nature and outdoor enthusiasts like me. Btw, Fall (Equinox) won't start 'til September 22nd, Monday. Welcome Fall!)

Go for A Walk this Fall*

One simple, inexpensive way I have found to cope with and manage my fibromyalgia and chronic lower back pain is walking around the neighborhood. I believe in mowing around, doing simple physical conditioning to ease my body and muscle (and joint) pain.

Fall is the perfect time to get out of the house to stretch my legs, breathe fresh air, enjoy the scenery, and meet new friends along the way.

Walking is the simplest form of exercise, and it's free---no gym equipment or tools required. all you need are comfortable clothes and a pair of walking shoes and maybe an audiobook or an MP3 to listen to, along with a ball cap or a visor. Even better is having a friend to keep you company.

Walking helps relieve boredom and anxiety. It's a stress-buster, too. Weather and body permitting, I prefer walking in the morning sun. It's such a relief strolling in the neighborhood, meeting joggers, bikers and fellow walkers and greeting each other with a pleasant "Good morning!"

A simple stroll can add vitality to your life, besides giving you the opportunity to meet a new neighbor, get vitamin D from the morning sun and find ways to help out in your community.

One important thing to always consider in maintaining our health, especially while outdoors: Think safety at all times. Before engaging in strenuous physical exercise, check with your doctor.

Go for a short walk and enjoy the fall weather. The leaves are starting to fall and fall foliage is a delightful treat for nature and outdoor enthusiasts like me.

Happy walking!

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com. Visit his blog at onebuddingpoet/writer-chris.blogspot.com. Check out his YouTube channel, Chris Quilpa, for short, random videos.

*Published in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk New-Herald, Saturday, September 20, 2014. For more info, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Rest and Relax on Labor Day!

Well, well, well, it's the first day of 'ber! September, that is! Yes, it's the first day of all the four 'bers of the last months in our calendar!

Btw, what day is it today? Monday! The first Monday of September, to be exact. What comes to mind? Labor Day! (It's a holiday, for all we know!) Happy Labor Day, everyone!

Today is a day off for our indefatigable laborers, workers, employees, civil or military, local or national. Yes, they deserve this special day, a federal holiday, to have a good/great time to be with their family and friends. It's a day (supposed to be) filled with rest and relaxation for them. Thank God for our laborers and workers, employees who toil day and night to keep America beautiful, clean, free, safe, peaceful, progressive, and great. God bless America! God bless US always!

This morning, while I was pondering today's observance of Labor Day, I thought of the many contributions our men and women, past and present, have done to make America the Land of the Free, a land of opportunity, justice, liberty and equality. May we pray for them as we continue to do our part to work hard and smart for our families and communities, and for the common good, and for the glory of God, our Heavenly Father/Creator of the Universe.

I would like to share with you what I have read something about today's observance of Labor Day. Let's begin...Labor Day is observed, annually, in the United States and her neighboring country Canada on the first Monday of September. Other countries around the world also celebrate or observe Labor Day, but on different dates. (As far as I know, The Philippines observes Labor Day on May 1st, each year.)

In the U.S. of A, Labor Day is a day to honor all past and present workers who have contributed and continue to do so to make America a better place to live in. The question of how did Labor Day originate is not clear, according to urban legend. However, there is the belief or notion that the idea came from two men, Matthew Maguire and Peter McGuire, both union members. (Btw or by the way, a union is an organization that represents the rights and interests of types of workers, such as those of Steel Workers Union.) To honor and pay tribute to their fellow workers, the two successfully organized parades and celebrations, on two separate occasions. On the other hand, a labor union, known as the Knights of Labor, was founded in 1869. It held a parade in New York City on September 5, 1882, to recognize all the hard work and contributions of its members and other laborers. With the success of that parade, consequently, other parades were held in other cities. Eventually, President Grover Cleveland (1885-1889 and 1893-1897) declared Labor Day  a national holiday in June 1894. This means that all banks and many private businesses, schools, Federal and state offices were closed. Hence, it is a day of rest and relaxation for majority of our employees, laborers and workers nationwide; a day for families and/or friends to get together as they celebrate the last, unofficial, day or activity of summer, prior to back to school day the following day, Tuesday. It means that students and teachers will return to school again for the start of a new school year. That means that their summer vacation is over, with the exception of those home-schooled.

There we have it, my dear folks and friends. Hope you have a restful and relaxing Labor Day! May God bless US always!-chris a. quilpa, 01Sep2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Back to School Once Again*

It's that time of year again, when students and teachers go back to school after the Labor Day holiday, unofficially marking the end of summer vacation.

Other school systems in the country have begun school a week ago or two ago, as have many private schools.

For teachers, the time since they returned to school Aug. 20 has been filled with teachers' meetings, in-service training, professional updates, working in and decorating their respective classrooms, doing last minute arranging and setting up their audio-visual teaching aids and equipment, all in an effort to get ready to welcome their students.

One of the guest or resource speakers in a professional development class my wife and I attended a few years ago quoted Henry Brooks Adams, a Harvard graduate who became an assistant professor of history at Harvard University, 1869-1876: "A teacher affects eternity; teachers can never tell where their influence stops."

My daughter Tintin, who left Hampton Roads a week ago, is back at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, pursuing graduate studies in school counseling, after her two-year stint as one of the college advisers of Virginia College Advising Corps and employed by UVA in partnership with AmeriCorps program.

As a parent and retired member of our armed forces who values a good quality education, I applaud and support my daughter's decision to pursue a career in school guidance and counseling. her two-year working experience with high schoolers in an economically-depressed community in Virginia has inspired her to help students stay in school and further their education.

As parents, we have to let our children go and experience life outside of their comfort zone, spread their wings and learn more about life and the world, with hope that they will realize their dreams and be successful in their own ways.

But we assure them that we're always there for them, no matter what happens.

I remember our two separate trips to UVA six years ago, when we dropped off our then third-year student Andrew and then our first-year college student, Tintin. The road that day was busy and overwhelming, filled with travelers, with a convoy of family vans headed to Charlottesville.

Overall, move-in day turned out smoothly and orderly. Thanks to all the volunteers who helped us parents unload and bring our students' stuff to their respective dorms.

Best wishes to all students and teachers-educators for a successful new school year.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. E-mail him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com

*Published in Suffolk News-Herald (print edition), Sunday, August 31, 2014. For more info, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.