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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Looking for someone to blame*

     Since coming to the U.S.A. over 30 years ago, I have learned many things about my adopted country.
     I learned there are Americans who are not homeowners. Before coming here, I did not know poverty was a problem in this country which is known around the globe as the richest and most powerful in the world. I did not know about discrimination until I got here and experienced it. I did not know there were people with bad intentions, taking advantage of others.
     It's tough to reconcile what I learned in school back in the Philippines, an ally and once under American tutelage. We studied U.S. history and government in high school. We loved everything American, and our dream was to be here, experiencing everything American.
     Why is there poverty in a country known to be the richest and most powerful in the world? I don't know, and I don't understand. I wonder what our federal, state and local governments have done to solve the problem?
     The nation's founding documents describe the pursuit of happiness, life, liberty, equality and justice for all. But I've observed inequality in pay and poor living conditions continue to be problems of America.
     Who is responsible for this? Is it the people themselves, and not the politicians and government officials or the millionaires, company CEOs that may be in cahoots with politicians and lobbyists?
     We are quick to blame those in authority, who are supposed to represent us, but instead stick to their party's line, even if their party's votes don't reflect the wishes of the American people.
     When the country is going in the wrong direction, many people are quick to point their fingers at the president, whose power is to execute laws passed by Congress. Why don't we blame Congress, which is charged with the task of making laws for the nation, or the Supreme Court that interprets the laws?
     Everything public officials do should be for the common good of all people in America, right?
     What about our responsibilities, dear people? We were responsible for placing these public officials into office. Aren't we also to blame, then, if everything is not going the way it should be in our government?
     Isn't it supposed to be a government of the people, by the people and by the people?

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

*Appeared in today's Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Tuesday, March 3, 2015. For more information, visit 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Neighbors helping neighbors in Suffolk*

Yes, Virginia, we have volunteers and good people in our midst---ordinary people who do extraordinary deeds.
Suffolk is not in short supply of caring people who volunteer their time and selves to help. They go the extra mile to make a difference in others’ lives.
After Monday’s snowstorm (that brought about 5-7 inches of snow over Hampton Roads on Presidents’ Day, Feb. 16th), our neighbors, Margaret and Ritchie Shermer and their daughter Kate and her fiance Matt (a U.S. Coast Guard), braved the cold Tuesday morning to clear my snow-laden driveway and front yard. 
This act of love on their part reminds me of what they did (again) last year to my family and me, a disabled, retired U.S. Navy veteran.
I thank them for all their help. They showed me to always trust in God. They were God’s instruments of His goodness and love. They reminded me to continue to do good and make difference for others and to always have hope.  
One of our friends in neighboring city, Mike, who saw one of the snowstorm photos I shared to Facebook, commented, “Good things come to good people. May God bless you all.”
I do believe that if you’re good to people, something good come out of it. I keep on thanking God and praying for our good friends and neighbors that we always maintain good relations with them, no matter what the circumstances are in our lives.
Just as I trust our Almighty God, I also trust in the goodness of people. (In Proverbs 3:5-6, we read: “Trust in the Lord with all your might and lean not in thine own understanding, In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy path.")
Neighbors are a lifeline when family members are far away. They are your family when no one else is around.. When they know you’re disabled, they are there to extend a helping hand. They are there to look after you. You try to help them, too, with what you have and can do.
Having worked in naval hospitals and clinics, I would say I did my very best to care for patients (and other healthcare beneficiaries to the point that I have this disability). (God knows how) I interacted with them, making sure they get the best care out of me, my knowledge and skills, and life experiences. (Putting myself in their position,) I did my best to alleviate their condition, without any reservation (at all). I treated them the way I wanted to be treated---with dignity, respect, and professionalism.  
I’m so grateful that I have good neighbors like Margaret and Ritchie and family. I’m also fortunate to have lived in a city like Suffolk, where volunteers and good people abound. It’s hard to find them nowadays (in these times and age), when there are so much anger, apathy, indifference, mistrust and suspicion, hatred and intolerance going on around the globe. 
But, I still believe in the goodness of man, that we are all precious gifts of God to one another, that we live for each other in good times and bad.
We are interdependent. No man is an island. You need me; I need you to make me grow and develop, like a child wanting attention and care, and love. Interdependence can never be underestimated.
In this Lenten season, I resolve to have trust and hope and  love for my neighbors, just as I have trust and love in our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. (I pray,) May we have more good and caring people in our midst. God bless us always.

-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, February 19, 2015. For more information, visit

                                         (c) 2015 Photos and text by Chris Quilpa

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A few thoughts about Love*

Variations on the theme of love are everywhere and bountiful. Take a look at the following:

Love is a many-splendored thing/ It’s the April rose that only grows in the early spring/ Love is nature’s way of giving/ A reason to be living the crown that makes a man a king…” So goes the 1955 Academy Award song originally recorded by The Four Aces, an all American male traditional pop music quartet.

Where do I begin/ To tell the story of how great a love can be/ The sweet love story that is older than the sea/ The simple truth about the love she brings to me/ Where do I start…” Excerpt from the 1970 Academy Award song Love Story, the original musical score of the award- winning movie of the same title starring  Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw. Out of the movie, based on the best-selling romantic novel by Erich Segal, came one of the top movie quotes, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Last year, my son Andrew gave me books on my birthday. One of them was 100 Best-Loved Poems. In it was this famous Sonnet XLIII by English female poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861).

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways./ I love thee to the depth and breadth and height/ My soul can reach when feeling out of sight/ For the ends of Being and ideal Grace/ I love thee to the level of everyday’s /Most quiet need, by the sun and candle-light./ I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;/ I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise./ I love thee with the passion put to use/ In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith./ I love thee with a love I seemed to lose/ With my lost saints,---I love thee with the breath,/ Smiles, tears, of all my life!---and if God choose,/ I shall love but thee better after death.” What a beautiful manifestation and declaration of Elizabeth’s love for her husband-poet Robert...that’s so sublime!  

During wedding ceremonies, in church or in court, this famous quote from the Holy Bible, 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, is a favorite: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs...It always protects, it always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails...So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Yes, Love reigns supreme.

The Beatles performed the popular song “All You Need is Love.”

Love, love, love...There’s nothing you can’t do that can be done./ Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung./ Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game./ It’s easy...All you need is love/ All you need is love/ All you need is love, love/ Love is all you need…”

Here are my love thoughts: “Love intellectual experience as well as a spiritual heritage./ an emotional crisis as well a biological hunger./ a magnet that draws people for mutual happiness./ only for a moment or for life!”

And fromAn Act of Love...forget yourself/ think of others/ share what you have/ and you’ll get well./ To the desperate, give your heart/ your enemies, never to hurt/ to them be faithful and true/ as He is true to you!”

Keep doing simple acts of love. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

-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, February 14, 2015. For more information, visit

Sunday, February 8, 2015

So much to celebrate*

     It's time again to celebrate Black History Month. I find it interesting to learn the many contributions of African Americans. I love learning about the people who made America great.
     As a naturalized U.s. citizen, of Filipino descent, I must admit I have much more to learn about the United States and its many cultures.
     My immigration into America in early 1980s and my military service of 20 years in the United States Navy gave me the opportunity to be exposed to cultural diversity.
     Back when I was in naval training in California, and then working at naval hospitals and clinics, I became aware of how diverse America has been.
     My exposure to the different cultures represented in the Navy opened my eyes to the beauty and complexity of human diversity. It helped me to be more understanding, respectful and tolerant to everyone I come in contact with. My knowledge of different cultures increased.
     Almost every month, we celebrated different cultural programs. We have had cultural shows and presentations, and guest speakers came to talk about their race or roots or historical events of significance. Those programs were informative, enlightening and entertaining to me.
     I'm also inspired reading biographies of notable people.
     I recall, when my young children were researching a presentation for Black History Month, that I came to know about George Washington Carver.
     I became interested in his life story. I consider him a role model worthy of respect and recognition. His struggle and determination to better himself were commendable. His humility and helpfulness are beyond compare. He truly exemplifies what a humanitarian is.
     In addition to the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who championed the cause of civil rights and equality, another modern African American who is worth-remembering is Rosa Louise McCauley, commonly known as Rosa Parks.
     I can't help but admire her for her conviction and resiliency in fighting for injustice and inequality.
     In 2008, I paid her a tribute via my Ilokano poem "Rosa Parks (1913-2005)" and was published in (under the Literatura section).
     Speaking of education, Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) founder Booker T. Washington comes to mind. With his encouragement, George Washington Carver taught there and helped the Southern farmers learn to improve the soil through crop rotation. (He did research on the many uses and benefits of peanuts. Thus, he was called the "wizard" of Tuskegee.)
     Another African American I found interesting was Harriet Tubman, who became the "Moses" of her people. She rescued about 70 blacks and their families from slavery via the Underground Railroad. As an abolitionist, she also fought for women's suffrage.
     As a budding poet, I have read some of the works of noted African-American writers like Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Rita Dove, Toni Morrison, Nikki Giovanni, Lucille Clifton, Alice Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Shel Silverstein and others.
     Locally, I've had the opportunity to watch Suffolk native Nathan Richardson performing at an open mic poetry night at a Chesapeake library. A performance poet and published author, he's also a marketing consultant for this publication.
     To all African Americans who have made significant contributions to America, I thank you.

-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, Sunday, February 8, 2015. For more information, visit

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Two educational stories to inspire others*

     There are stories to be told and shared especially if they inspire and educate others, notably our young who deserve a good education.
     One story that I'd like to share to our community is one that pertains to my two young adult children.
     Andrew and Christine (aka Tintin) both attended Catholic elementary and high schools in Hampton Roads. Both graduated from The University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Class of 2010 and 2012, respectively. Both love writing, drama, music, and poetry.
     Imbued with the love of God and spirit of community service, both have served in the Americorps program, after college. Both excelled academically. They have preformed in school plays, also competed and won in various forensics competition while in elementary and high school. Both received Presidential Excellence Award in Education.
     Andrew, the older of the two, earned the National Honor society medal while in high school. After college, he did one-year substitute teaching in Hampton Roads before deciding to work in Washington, D.C. He currently teaches IT classes to the underserved population there, while continuing to entertain theater audiences.
     He has appeared in a variety of theater productions in Hampton Roads and Washington, D.C. (Among these are William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, "O Dad, Poor Dad, Momma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin So Sad," Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, Districtland, Dracula, and Red High Heels: A Trilogy.)
     Years ago, Andrew performed in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. He also appeared at the Smithfield Little Theater.
     Tintin, who has been to Germany, China, and the Philippines, is back at UVA pursuing a graduate degree in school counseling at the Curry School of Education, after working as a college adviser for two years at George Washington High School in Danville.
     Last week, Tintin was notified that she has just won the grand prize in an essay competition by the  American Counseling Association.
     I was ecstatic when she told me the good news. I thanked God, congratulated her, and shared the news with our Facebook friends. She will be recognized at the ACA Conference and Expo in Orlando, FL, in March.
     (With her permission, here's an excerpt of her winning essay: "While counseling provides many support services to people and communities in need, it can also involve many risks. We counselors and counselors-in-training strive to provide hope, comfort, guidance, and direction to clients who have faced many difficulties in their lives, and when clients let their guards down and open up to us about very serious, personal issues, it is important that we treat all of them fairly and equally, not cause harm, promote their welfare, remain trustworthy, and maintain confidentiality. Therefore, I personally believe that the fundamental purpose of ethical standards in the counseling profession is to provide a framework to build a strong, transparent community of trust and accountability.
     Trust can take time, especially if we are working with clients who have experienced injustice, pain, suffering, and other issues that have affected their ability to become open to and confident in others. If we apply ethical standards, especially confidentiality and privacy, and take the time to listen to them and to understand their individual needs, we can better gain their trust and become more caring and more competent professionals.
     Accountability is also important to ensure that we keep ourselves responsible for our actions and do what is best to serve our clients...Without accountability to back up our actions, we can lose clients' sense of trust in us.")
     Back in November, I featured Andrew and Tintin, in two separate video interviews, on my YouTube channel. I asked Andrew about his acting pursuit. For Tintin, I asked why she chose school counseling as opposed to other graduate school programs. She said she loves working with students, and helping them pursue their educational goals.
     Every other Sunday, Tintin drives home to Hampton Roads to share her musical talent and skills. She plays piano during church worship service at one of the Christian churches in Norfolk.
     As a parent, I couldn't be happier and prouder for my two children. I feel successful when I see them succeeding in life.

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

*Published in the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Thursday, January 29, 2015. For more information, visit

NOTE: Below are my two separate video interviews of my two young adult children, Andrew and Tintin. The interview took place 30 November 2014 (after Thanksgiving holiday) at Taco Bell, one Sunday, after my family has attended church. Thanks for watching. And, thanks, YouTube.

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