Birthday recognition for my wife

Published 5:45 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2024

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By Chris Quilpa

It’s been said that a man’s best friend is his dog. I tend to believe it. Simba, my “Chorkie,” a mixed breed of Chihuahua and Yorkshire Terrier, has kept me company since he was eight weeks old. He’s the best buddy I’ve got. He’s now nine years old this month. I love you, Simba. You’re such a good boy. Thank you, buddy.

With updated vaccinations and biannual health-medical examinations, including yearly dental checkups and a renewal license dog tag, I believe Simba’s in good health. His loyalty to me is unbelievably commendable. He follows me wherever I go. He barks at strangers at first, but once he gets accustomed to you, he’ll approach you and wag his tail. That’s his way of welcoming you to our house. 

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At a young age, my son Andrew, my firstborn in Guam (a U.S. territory), kept saying, “I wanna be a doctor like Grandpa.” We thought he would be…But after graduating from local Catholic elementary and high schools here with her younger sister, he went to UVA, majored in Psychology, and minored in Drama. His Washington-born younger sister also studied there and finished her undergraduate and master’s degrees. They are two years apart, by the way.

After college, both worked with the AmeriCorps program for two years at different places in Virginia. A non-profit organization in DC employed him, and she became a middle and high school counselor in VA public schools. He has taught IT to the underserved population in DC, besides acting/performing in theatres there and Maryland. So talented, having appeared in a number of heavy dramas like Shakespearean plays, he has also performed musicals, like in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, at Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts and another musical at Little Theater in Smithfield. He’s also into radio shows and puppetry, too. Likewise, he has done reading interpretations, collaborating with audio book authors. Happy birthday, Andrew!

Now, on to my wife, whose birthday is April 5. When I immigrated to the US to join with my folks in the Bay Area in late 1983, Freny and I were not on good terms. But we both believe in second chances. After working in the Bay Area for a year, I went on vacation to the Philippines and patched up my relationship with her. At that time, she had finished her Master’s degree in Education. She enrolled in several doctorate courses while continuing to teach college Chemistry at UNP (University of Northern Philippines)’s College of Arts and Sciences, where I was a college instructor then.

While busy pursuing and then graduating in naval training and Hospital Corps education in the U.S. Navy in 1985, I was able to win her back with my frequent letter-writing to her. Prior to reporting to my first duty station at Naval Medical Center in San Diego, CA, I decided to marry her in late 1985. Our church wedding in her hometown in the Philippines was one of the best things that ever happened to me, besides my first trip abroad to Rome, Italy, in 1980. 

When she joined me here in the U.S. in 1986, she had to make life and career adjustments. Volunteering with the American Red Cross and working at the Pharmacy Department at NMC, San Diego, she learned fast about life in the U.S. Putting her teaching profession on hold so she could take care of our two schoolchildren, she persevered in driving them to their schools. 

As parents who valued the importance of education, we decided to send our children to private schools, aware of the financial responsibilities we’d incur. We did financial budgeting and sacrifice to give our two children the best education we could afford. Sacrifice and determination played a big part in our decision to raise and educate them. We believe nothing is impossible because of our trust and faith in God. And we made it through thick and thin.

As the lone Asian American chemistry teacher in Hampton Roads public high schools, Freny earned another master’s degree (Education Specialist), this time at George Washington University in DC, while busy teaching. One thing she should have accomplished in her education career: To be an assistant principal in the public school system here. Though fully qualified for the position, having a number of certified endorsements, she was very cognizant of the employment environment. She continued to be a classroom teacher, having written and revised curriculum chemistry instructions and mentoring new teachers.

 After over two decades of teaching Chemistry in one of the public high schools in Hampton Roads, Freny retired two years ago. (If there’s one deserving of recognition, a public service award in education, I’m honored to recommend my wife, who worked so hard to educate our students, our future.) 

Aside from going to church with family and friends on Sundays and most Wednesdays, she keeps herself busy, though, doing crocheting and attending quarterly meetings of Hampton Retired Educators Association in which she’s an active member.

To my wife and consummate driver, Freny, thank you for all you have done for our family, community, and adoptive country. Your public service has been productive and commendable. You did your best to educate our students, who are our future. And, for all the years we’ve been together, and as Mom or Mama to our two independent-minded adult children, I thank you so much. Words don’t give justice to my lifetime love and commitment to you. God knows. I love you always till my last breath. 

To all of our April birthday celebrants, Happy Birthday! Thanks for all that you do and have done to help make our world a better place. God bless you and your family always.