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Monday, January 5, 2015

Shall we go for a walk?*

     Residents of Burbage Grant in northern Suffolk have a new reason to be active, healthy and friendly with their neighbors.
     With the resurfaced and widened sidewalk that stretches from Burbage Lake to Burbage Landing, residents and their families and friends can enjoy outdoor biking, running, jogging and walking with their dogs.
     As one of the homeowners in this community, I frequently enjoy walking around the neighborhood along this sidewalk, especially when the weather is mild and sunny. Trying to manage my chronic back pain and fibromyalgia daily, I feel blessed and inspired to get active and stay healthy using this sidewalk to do my simplest form of exercise---walking.
     Encountering strangers and meeting new friends can be rewarding while strolling on this sidewalk, which helps encourage a spirit of friendship and neighborliness. i regard this sidewalk not only as a pathway to good healthy but also a link to connect with fellow residents and build community cohesiveness.
     You'll be amazed to learn what walking outdoors can do to your health. Judy Wilson, in her January 2014 article on, wrote that walking for 40 minutes to an hour a day can help prevent heart disease and diabetes. Walking can reduce weight, boost healthy cholesterol, ease chronic pain and strengthen bones. It can also help reduce stress, prevent anxiety and depression. Moreover, it can help boost your concentration.
     Furthermore, walking outdoors can add vitality to your life, allow you to breathe fresh air, and soak up Vitamin D from the sun. There is also this feeling of grateful appreciation toward the beauty of nature and our environment.
     Social interaction in the community is one of the unexpected extra benefits of walking outdoors. Meeting a neighbor or a prospective new friend is something we should not take for granted.
     A sincere and genuine greeting and a smile when we meet someone can help change even the worst day. Saying "Good morning!" to one walker or jogger you encounter along the way may even lead you to a meaningful experience that can change your life, or perspective of life.
     Since the start of autumn, I have been walking around my neighborhood. Though I did not have many expectations, except to manage my chronic pain, my walks around the neighborhood almost every morning have given me the optimism to keep on being alive and well.
     I have come to know fellow residents who are military retired veterans like me. I have been more focused on staying healthy, despite my physical disability. I have come to appreciate more the beauty of nature, my surroundings, and what I have to learn and share and offer to everyone I come to meet.
     I have gained insights into what it takes to belong to a community.
     For 2015, let's focus on health and on making a difference for others. Our health is our wealth. Doing simple physical conditioning such as walking outdoors, especially when the weather is beautiful and if we're able and capable, undoubtedly enhances our quality of life.
     By the way, I have nothing against fitness centers or gyms. They're great for exercise, but using them requires membership fees. Why pay when you can exercise outdoors for free and enjoy the beauty of nature?
     Shall we go for a walk? If we're lucky, maybe we'll meet a new friend.

-CHRIS A. QUILPA, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in northern Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Sunday, January 4, 2015. For more information, visit

                                         Photos (c) 2015 by Chris A. Quilpa

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas traditions from the Philippines*

Happy holidays! It's that time of year again to celebrate and commemorate the nativity of Jesus Christ, who was born in a manger, later suffered and died for our sake, and was then resurrected to give us hope in life.

Immigrants and naturalized U.S. citizens like me may have become accustomed to the western ways of living. But wherever we may be, still carry in our hearts the cultures and traditions of our youth.

As Christmas draws near, I love to recall Christmas traditions from back home in the Philippines.

As early as September, shopping malls and stores start hanging Christmas decorations and playing Christmas songs. Houses are getting ready for Christmas family reunions. Civic groups begin brainstorming to try to raise funds by caroling from house to house and business to business. Churches see more attendance.

These activities run through the Feast of Three Kings, the first week of January.

In a Filipino household, you'll likely see a star "parol" (a Spanish word meaning lantern or lamp) or Christmas lantern hanging or displayed distinctly in one's house.

This symbolizes the star over Bethlehem, the one that guided the three wise men to the stable whre our Lord Jesus Christ was born.

The traditional five-pointed star lantern was made of bamboo sticks, cellophane and colored rice paper, commonly called "papel de Hapon" or Japanese paper. In the middle of the parol is a platform where a candle or two---or a small coconut-oil lamp---illuminates the lantern.

Now, the Christmas parol takes different forms and designs, from simple five-pointed stars to colorful ones illuminated by kaleidoscopic electric lights.

Originally the parol was used not as a Christmas decoration but to light the way for those going to church for dawn masses, known as "Misa de Gallo" or "Rooster's Mass."

The Christmas tradition of "Simbang Gabi" is a series of nine consecutive dawn (or evening) masses that starts Dec. 16 and ends Christmas Eve. It has been adopted by a lot of different dioceses, including those of Richmond, Arlington and Washington, DC.

Another tradition is this "Noche Buena" on Christmas Eve. On this festive night, family and friends gather together around a dining table laden with food---lechon or roasted pig; pancit, or Chinese lo mien noodles; lumpia, or egg rolls; bibingka, or rice cakes; adobo, arroz caldo, macaroni, spaghetti, fruit salad and more.

We enjoy food, friendship and fellowship, and we also exchange gifts, sing Christmas carols and play games. We go caroling from house to house, bringing glad tidings of "peace on Earth, goodwill to men."

On Christmas Day, we attend Christmas mass, then eat leftover food. Children go to their
godparents's homes to receive gifts. Other groups and families continue their partying and getting together with relatives near or far. Others go to the mall or to the movies.

Christmas is a season of joy and hope, a time for family and friends getting together, sharing their joy and blessings.

From my family to yours, merry Christmas and happy holidays!

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

*Published in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Tuesday, December 23, 2014. For more information, visit

Friday, December 12, 2014

Limits needed on high-stakes testing*

Testing is important. In fact, it is employed almost everywhere in business and industries, occupations or professions.

In the case of education, students are tested to gauge their range of learning and to find out if they understand what has been taught by their teachers.

The common pen and paper or online testing have become the norm in education, and test resulkts are recorded for various purposes. Test scores are looked at as if they are the ultimate indicators of learning and teaching.

Not to discount the pen and paper test, but there are other ways to evaluate learning. One is active classroom observation and participation, particularly graded individual classroom recitation. Asking students questions is a form of testing. Observing one student helping another to solve a problem is testing. And giving an essay-type test in the classroom is another way of testing students' critical thinking, thought-organization, mastery of the language and communication skills.

Students and teachers are under a lot of pressure from all sides of the education spectrum, especially with the mandated state and federal standardized tests that take precedence over individual lesson plans. Hence, they are teaching their students to the tests. And, thus, their students' test scores become the basis for evaluating teacher performance.

Some people are quick to point their fingers at educators for students' failures. But who is to blame?

Blaming teachers for students' failure to pass standardized tests is absurd and counterproductive. What teacher would want his or her students to fail in class? Students are their responsibility in school. But that doesn't mean teachers are responsible for everything in their students' minds. Students have minds of their own.

Students have the will to learn or not. They even have the ability to disrupt a class and, therefore, jeopardize the day's learning for those who want to learn. What about the responsibility of that student, his or her family, other entities or agencies charged with helping to educate our students?

The National Education Association is launching a campaign to end "toxic testing," the abuse and overuse of high-stakes standardized tests. With its new president, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the NEA will continue to push the president and Congress to completely overhaul the No Child Left Behind program and to end mandates that require states to administer outdated tests that aren't aligned to school curricula.

Furthermore, NEA is "calling on lawmakers to repeal requirements that state standardized tests be used to evaluate educators, and instead implement real accountability in our public education."

Eskelsen Garcia said high-stakes testing is corrupting what it means to teach and what it means to learn. "It's corrupting the collaborative relationship we have with each other as we're told to compete against each other---district against district, school against school, teacher against teacher, and support professionals against each other."

It takes a village to raise and educate a child. Our teachers do all they can to help make their students successful.

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

*Published in the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald. For more information, visit

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Count Your Blessings*

Arguably, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 by some rag-tag pilgrims, Plymouth colonists, who gathered together to give thanks for bountiful harvests and to count their blessings for having 47 out of 103 pilgrims who survived their first winter in the New World.

That summer of 1621, Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Colony, Massachussetts, decreed that everyone should celebrate their improving situation. Pilgrims gave thanks and extended their fellowship to the Native Americans who reached out to help them survive the winter. It was a time for great feasting, wonderful fellowship, and cultural exchange.

The menu was very special and everyone helped to prepare the feast. The American Indians brought wild turkey and venison (deer meat). The men provided wild geese, ducks, and fish. The women prepared the food and made cornmeal bread and succotash (a cooked dish of kernel of corn mixed with shell of beans, especially lima beans, and often with green and sweet red peppers).

Children gathered nuts and wood for the open fires, where the meat was roasted on spits. Everyone sat around large tables outside and feasted, sang hymns of praise and had a wonderful time.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the first national Thanksgiving proclamation, which set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of observance.

The credit really should go to a lady, Mrs. Sarah J. Hale of Philadelphia, who authored "Mary Had A Little Lamb" and edited "Godey's Lady Room," which had a circulation of 180,000. She wrote letters to all governors, as well as to the president, and also many editorials for her publication, all devoted to bringing about a national day of Thanksgiving.

Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a time for family reunions, giving thanks, and having a great time. There's that televised colorful, and magnificent television parade during the day in New York and much-anticipated football games in the evening, across the country, while families are feasting, enjoying lots of fun, friendship and food.

During the season of thanksgiving, many of us stop and take time to reach out to those less fortunate than ourselves. And many enjoy family, feasts, fellowship, and fun over a long weekend celebration.

This Thanksgiving, don't forget to give thanks and count your blessings.

May your Thanksgiving be joyful.

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

*Published in the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Wednesday, November 26, 2014. For more information, visit

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Why Science Education matters*

Science teachers and educators around the Commonwealth gathered together at the historic Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center, Roanoke, Virginia,  for a three-day professional development institute (PDI), November 20-22.

Sponsored by Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST), this yearly educational event helps science teachers get new ideas to enhance their teaching, while they  experience a cutting-edge technology and earn recertification points or extra college credits.

Educators network with fellow science teachers from all over the state and hear nationally known keynote speakers and presenters who are expert in their own field. Participants also see exhibits from different exhibitors, corporate member-partners and sponsors, and organizations that support science education.

The institute aims to expand and promote excellence in science education, as well as science literacy in Virginia.
This year’s theme is Sparking Innovation: Enhancing Student Learning Experience for Everyone.   

Science education matters. That’s why this group of talented teachers and educators converged in Roanoke.

While my wife Freny, a chemistry teacher, was busy attending sessions, I had the opportunity to ask a number of participants why they believe science education matters.

John Richardson, a faculty member of Ferrum College and Virginia Tech, said: “The idea of informed citizens is the most important consideration. I focus on climate change to a great extent and the importance of a “knowledge-based’ is critically important to make political decisions based on science.”

Stephanie Harry, a chemistry teacher at Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, wrote: “Education is power. Science is fundamental in the advancement of our society. We must work (hard) to prepare our students so they can continue to contribute to the advancement of our society.”

Fifth grade teacher Ravi Nair of Hanover County said, “As we prepare students for the future, certain process skills will be needed. These skills can only be developed by providing students with meaningful experiences that involve critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork.”

Marsha Brown, fifth grade teacher at Tanners Creek Elementary School in Norfolk, wrote: “ Science education matters because science is everywhere. It helps students understand the natural world. Science encourages them to become life-long problem solvers and critical thinkers.”
Joseph Wieland, a Biology graduate student at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, opined that science education matters because it “extends your questioning (beyond) what you already know and what others say, based on facts and opinions. It teaches you how to question to get new ideas and information.” [He said that questioning expands your specific knowledge of other branches of science like biology, chemistry, etc.]

“We have kids in different classes who have slightest idea about issues like Ebola virus, global warming, health care and space program, and they’re uninformed,” said George Dewey, a physics teacher from Fairfax. “They don’t know what and who to believe. That’s where science education comes in.”

One of the association’s standing committee chairs on policy on awards and grants, Dewey said that science educators try to stress logical thinking process as one of the keys in learning. He said critical thinking is a byproduct of science education.  

A Science Instruction Specialist from Campbell County, Lanie Patrick said, “Science education is the epitome of thinking, asking questions, and finding answers. It’s what we know about our world and how we understand it. Science (education) is learning.”

[Karen Leslie, a middle school physical science teacher and a colleague of Patrick, said that science education matters because it stresses critical thinking and critical thinking is important in education, work, and learning.]

To all teacher-participants in the VAST event, thank you for all that you do to spark and enhance our students’ learning.  

[Venue for next year’s VAST conference will be at Westfield Marriott Washington Plaza in Chantilly, VA, Nov. 19-21, with its theme Designing Inquiring Minds.]

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

*Published in the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Tuesday, November 25, 2014. For more information, visit

NOTE: Below are photos from the 2014 VAST PDI at The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, Roanoke, VA. Photos copyright 2014 by Chris Quilpa

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What A Good Education Can Do*

In celebration of American Education Week---November 16-22, 2014---I’d like to share with you my thoughts on education.
I was the first from my family of 11 children to earn a college degree in 1977. Studying from one public school to another in elementary and high school, while working to earn a living, I managed to make good grades and graduated with honors, from among 700 graduating seniors.

As a self-supporting student, I enrolled in and graduated from a private (Catholic) college. [The school, Divine Word College of Vigan, in Ilocos Sur, Philippines, is managed by the Society of the Divine Word (Latin: Societas Verbi Domini  or SVD) priests-administrators. SVD, popularly called the Verbites or Divine Word Missionaries or Steyler Missionaries, was founded in 1875 in Steyl, Netherlands by diocesan priest Arnold Janssen, now Saint Arnold Janssen in the Catholic Church.] After college, and passing the board exam for teachers, I taught in private and public high schools, and also in college (as an English college instructor), while pursuing my graduate studies.

In 1983, I immigrated to the U.S. and, after working for two years in San Jose, California, joined the U.S. Navy and retired in 2005, after 20 years of honorable military service.

Here’s what I learned about  education:

A good education liberates us from illiteracy, poverty, mediocrity, ignorance, intolerance. Equipped with necessary skills like speaking, reading, writing, arithmetic, one can earn a living and improve his economic condition. With further education and advanced skills, we become more tolerant, (respectful) and understanding in our dealings with fellow human beings.

A good education encourages us to excel, to succeed, to give and keep on giving without expecting anything in return. We’re driven to do our best when we’re challenged and inspired. We remain focused on our goals.

Education helps us aim to achieve and accomplish something that makes us and others feel better. We just don’t focus on ourselves anymore but on others who will ultimately benefit from the good deeds we do.

A good education empowers us to be a good example for others. Using the educational skills we have, we inspire others to do the same. Through our examples, we become catalysts of change and reform in the lives of others, especially the young ones. They emulate what they see in us.

A good education can lead us to a successful life. Of course, we have varied perspective of what success is. For me, success is not how much money I have but how I have made my life better for me and others.

To many, success is defined in terms of material wealth, power and prestige. To some, it may mean a long-time dream realized---having a college degree, spouse, decent house, car, and a family to cherish. To others, success means having accomplished so much that they devote their time to help alleviate the economic conditions of other people.

A good education can take us to foreign places and give us new experiences that change our lives forever. What we have learned from books, our teachers, the Internet, social media can motivate us to do more. That is, we become missionaries, adventurers, tourists, explorers, entertainers and so on.

With his knowledge, experiences, expertise, and values, man’s life is enriched, thus, leading the way to his enlightenment and transformation.

That’s what a good education can do.

To all teachers, thank you for your commitment to education.

-CHRIS QUILPA, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Published in the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Tuesday, November 18, 2014. For more information, visit

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Remembering on Veterans Day*

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month at 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918, World War I  formally ended with the signing of Armistice between the Allied troops and Germany. Thus, on November 11, each year, we commemorate Armistice Day, now commonly known as Veterans Day to honor those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

[Compared to Memorial Day (which is an annual federal holiday in the U.S., observed nationwide on the last Monday of May to honor all of our deceased or fallen Service men and women), Veterans Day became an official legal holiday to honor all of our U.S. veterans, past and present.]

To all veterans of war and peace, Thank you for your service and sacrifices. To those who are no longer with us, “May they rest in peace. Amen.”

On this Veterans Day, here’s a poetic tribute to all of our veterans:

Victorious Veterans

Victorious veterans/ Of yesterday and today/ Who fought for freedom/ Peace and prosperity/ Life and liberty/ Who served proudly with dignity/ Yet, survived and succeeded/ To win victory for our country For the whole humanity---/We’re so proud of you!

You served and volunteered/ To protect and to defend/ Our nation, our Constitution/ Our people our world/ With so much love/ Pride and patriotism/ Valor and vigilance/ And you survived/ The scars and scourge/ The atrocities and bitterness/ Of war---big or small/ In Vietnam and Korea/ Granada and Panama/ In the Middles East/ And other crises---/ National and international…

The experiences and memories/ In those battlefields/ Concentration camps/ And war zones/ And of our beloved ones.../ They can never be forgotten/ For as long as you live, /For as long as memories linger/ On and on, ad infinitum/ Valiant veterans/ Hailed and honored/  Revered and respected/  Recognized and remembered/ Today, always, and forever.

On this very special day/ A memorable Veterans Day/ We salute you/ And thank you so much/
Veterans of all times; / For your courage and dedication/ For your service and devotion/ To our people and our nation./ We proudly honor you/ The unsung heroes of war and peace/ Of the past and the present/ The ideal and inspiration/ Of all generations/ Of all times!

Gone But Not Forgotten…”

Like us, you had dreams/ Loafty goals and ambitions/ Visions and missions/ For a better life-world.

You volunteered to serve/ To protect and to defend/ Our freedom and our liberty/ Our nation  and the Constitution/ With hope and honor/ Pride and power/ Valor and vigilance/ Without fear and reservation.

You endured the pain/ Sun, wind, snow, and rain/ And you enjoyed the game/ Of love, life, and fame. / You endured the agony/ Of a war-torn country;/You suffered tremendously/ To the end…

You left us everything / But images and memories---/ Dusty ribbons and uniforms/ Faded jeans and shirts/ Letters and photographs/ All to cherish and treasure.

Gone but not forgotten/ You---our unsung heroes/ Of war and peace---/ Our inspiration in life/ Today, yesterday and tomorrow!

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

*Published in the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Sunday, November 9, 2014. For more information, visit