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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 chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

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


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 chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

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

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 chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

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

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 chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com

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

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 chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

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

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 chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

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


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Our Vote's Our Voice. Let's Cast It Today!

Today is Election Day across America. (Midterm elections, that is.) It is the time to cast our vote and exercise our right of suffrage. The right to vote is a fundamental right guaranteed to us by/in the U.S. Constitution, with Congress having the sole power to enforce this right by appropriate legislation/s.


Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified July 9, 1868, mentioned about the right to vote. At that time, only twenty-one year old male persons born or naturalized in the United States and the State wherein they reside, with the exception of those who participate in rebellion or other crime, can participate in any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State.


With the birth of women’s suffrage movement, that started by Lydia Taft of Massachusetts in 1756, and subsequently by other well-known female suffrage advocates and activists such as Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Susan B. Anthony, the right to vote for women gained momentum. Governor John Allen Campbell of the Wyoming Territory was the first governor to approve the first U.S. law granting women the right to vote  on December 10, 1869. Other states, like Idaho, Utah and Colorado, followed suit. Eventually, on June 4, 1920, Congress approved, and ratified by some states, The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which prohibited state or federal sex-based restrictions on voting.
 
The Fifteenth Amendment, ratified on February 3, 1870 by the U.S. Congress, states that the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.


The Twenty-Fourth Amendment, ratified January 23, 1964, states that the right of the citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.


The Twenty-Sixth Amendment, ratified July 1, 1971, states that the right of citizens of the United States who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.


There we have it, in the Supreme Law of the Land, the proof that guarantees our right to vote.


Let’s not take our right to vote for granted. We, the people, have the power to effect change and reforms in our government. Our right to vote cannot be denied. Hence, we have to exercise this right, the right to elect who will serve, lead and represent us.


With our vote, we can make a difference not only for ourselves but for others. With our vote, we are empowered to make our city, community, country better.
On this Election Day, let us rise to the occasion and cast our vote to the best candidate who, we believe, can deliver our interests---sound fiscal responsibility and accountability, better schools achievement, economic job opportunities, better health services for all people, law and order, equality, education, and empowerment for all citizens.


Our vote is our voice, a powerful voice that can make or unmake a candidate or politician a public servant. Our vote can unseat an incumbent who does not meet our expectations. Our vote can install into public office a newcomer or challenger who is ready to work for us with his or her zeal and passion to serve the public. Our vote determines what our future city, community, country be, with the best possible candidate we elect.


Let’s get out, go to the polls, and vote today! Don’t let this once-in-a-while civic event pass. Who knows, we might meet/encounter an old or new friend at the polling place.


Our vote counts! Let’s give the Board of Elections Committee, election registrars and his or her team the opportunity to count and tabulate our votes.


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


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