Barefoot Chronicles; Those That Beckon

It was Pacquiao’s much-anticipated fight with Mayweather then so the otherwise busy Manila streets were all ours. Save a few cars here and there, we had the roads to ourselves and had the luxury to cruise at 120mph while intently straining our ears for the blow-by-blow account of the commentator on the supposed fight of the century. I winced every time our Manny got a hard one, felt riotous when they announced Floyd as the winner, but I knew that the awful feeling which was gnawing at my insides was largely due to the fact that I was getting scared the more distance we covered away from those familiar mountains back home.

I was due to fly with my husband that day. There was of course excitement. I’ve never been one to say no to any prospect of exploring a new place. But we both knew this was different. The moment I bade goodbye to my family, the reality I’ve been trying to ignore months prior was hitting me full on, and harshly at that. I could still feel my sister’s tight grip as she was trying hard to put up a brave front, always the stouthearted one that she is. Mama’s sobs still resonated clearly as for the first time, I had to be the stronger one between the two of us, reassuring her that I’d be back the soonest I can. That was the first time I’ve seen her let down her defenses as she unabashedly cried for her youngest daughter’s departure. My dogs’ fluffy tails still seemingly tickle my nostrils as I try to shake off their questioning doe-eyes from my mind. It was not a pretty scene.

I’ve said tons of farewells to my family before but nothing as sentimental because we always knew I would be back, maybe the next weekend, the next month, or even the next year. No matter how long I’d be gone, what I’d do, and where I’d go, there was comfort in those goodbyes as they knew I’ll come back soon enough and still be solely theirs. But this time was undeniably different. A man, my husband, was whisking me off to start a new life with him. And it was not just to the other side of the mountain.

It was a myriad of emotions. Excitement, dread, anticipation, despondency, happiness–all for their respective reasons. For the first time in a lot of years, I felt like a little girl, my mother’s little girl. But that constant squeeze of my hands made me a bit brave. That reassuring smile from the man beside me made me feel that everything will be okay.

After two glasses of wine, two unfinished movies, and disturbed dreamless half-naps, my husband excitedly woke me up for my first view of Canada. I feigned pleasure. But the bigger part of my being was wanting to board the next plane back to the Philippines. I felt defiant and only comforted myself with the thought that I was here on a two-week vacation. That was how much in a state of denial I was.

I had the warmest of welcome from my in-laws, friends and relatives when I got here. That helped a lot. But as the days dragged on and I fell into an obsessive routine of scouring job sites and ads so the soonest I could find something to occupy my days with, there was that unavoidable void. Days were longer (and they literally were) as I pined for the familiar comforts of home. I grew spiteful towards my husband (which was totally unreasonable given that I should have braced myself for this big leap) as I felt like I threw a huge chunk of who I was and what I do for something so uncertain. But I knew I was being utterly irrational. I was simply homesick.

He was very patient throughout the ordeal. He showed more understanding than I deserved. And he did his best to introduce me to the mountains here. He knew what to do.

We started out with simple walks in parks and reservoirs. Then that escalated to hikes and reaching several summits.  I began appreciating what was here on his other end of the world. And I concede, the views here are fascinating. What used to be just postcard images or wallpaper screens can now be actually seen with the naked eye. There’s an added magic to that.  Every moment I get myself engulfed in the magic of greenery and foliage, I was transported back home.  I loved every trek and hike that I always looked forward to the next. Gradually, I succumbed. More than the physical pleasure of getting mesmerized by picturesque scenes, each trip meant reconnecting to that part of home.

Without realizing it, a full year has passed. I’ve experienced the full cycle of the seasons. One year gone means one year closer to being back home.


It’s been a struggle making a new place my second home. It will still be for the next few years or so. The homesickness will not be snuffed out lest I make that first trip back to Sagada. The mountains there will always beckon me but for now, I have to view horizons from other peaks.

‘BFF-ing’ Him

IMG_9925When my 28-year old jaded self first experienced a snow flurry a few days ago, the first thing I did was to send my husband a text message saying, “It’s snowing! (hashtagging; first timer).” Then I spent the next ten seconds being excited and all before getting back to whatever it was I was doing.

That made me realize yet again that in most things, great or small, there’s this instinctive act to share it first with my better half. It made me recall those countless times that I did the same thing; always seeking to share whatever instantaneous feeling or event there was with him.

Like that time in Dubai when a perv grabbed my butt and sped off with his bicycle (yes batsh*t crazy, miscreants like those exist). After being momentarily stunned for  a good few seconds, the first thing I did was to make a long distance call and rant to him about the incident. No expectations for him to come charging with a cape and go off after the scumbag but somehow I knew hearing his voice would somehow make things feel better. Or that time I got so hammered in Baguio but my drunk self sobered up enough to call him just to recant my crazy night and that I got home safe.

And those little triumphs like A+ grades, making an impression in an interview, a bus that I triumphantly caught even with my heels on, a perfectly-baked cake–he was always the first to know. Even those petty woes of mine–that day’s rude client, the bus that was ten minutes late, having an extra rice short off a meal,  a burnt cake.

I’ve said goodbye to my hermetic self when I welcomed my then boyfriend (now husband) into my life. I was used to having evening conversations with just my dogs and keeping most things to myself. The daily grind was often met with indifference but now I have someone to deafen with my rants. The small victories before were celebrated with solo dinners at Volante’s, but now I have a partner who indulges with my random cravings.

I acknowledge his enthusiasm may seem obligatory at times, or that he’ll even get tired at certain points. But that’s alright. I’ve found myself a life-long partner who I believe can put up with my outlandish ways…and stories–nonsensical or otherwise.

I look forward to sharing more stories with you, love. Happy 2nd! 🙂

Holidays 2015

A Love Story: Part III

These last days of summer have afforded me ample time to be idle and dawdle with just about everything I do. I don’t have any valid excuse for this sluggishness other than it’s part of the big adjustment phase I am currently undergoing. With that said, there shouldn’t be a reason why I won’t end my blogging hiatus as I have the luxury of time (for say, a few more lethargic summer days). So thankfully today, I feel like tapping on my seasoned keyboard and see if I still have the juices to write one more sappy article. Just one more.

@CSMV, Sagada
@CSMV, Sagada

We haven’t been coy about sharing our love story ( Sunstar: A Love StorySunstar: A Love Story (Part II ). It was truly heartwarming that we were able to tug a few heart strings here and there as we braved a long distance relationship through the years, ended up being married, then finally being together, happily, ever after. Or so we wish.

So once again, allow me to indulge (as I also indulge my husband). You see, he believes that the ultimate reason we were so lucky with the quick processing of our ticket to forevermore (or my immigration documents) was that the assessing officer who got to handle our papers is a sappy romantic who loved our story so much that this kindhearted human made no qualms about giving the approval for our application.  The embassy requires all these evidence to prove that couples do have a rock solid relationship when a spouse is being sponsored under the family class visa. And boy what a pile we had! Screencaps of our chats, tons of photos, mails, cards, and name all those proof of correspondence we had over the years. We also included those published articles that painted a vivid picture of two souls being so in love despite the distance, time and disastrous interventions that might have had made either of us give up on the relationship. So now my husband thinks I should write one last thing about this, with a shot in the dark thought that this particular immigration officer might know that our story now continues and that we owe it to him or her that we’re now physically together so much sooner than expected.

So yes, after years of being apart and making do with a few days of togetherness each year, I am now getting used to waking up with another person beside me aside from my bears and my dogs. I have now joined him in his shores and now in an entirely different world that is at the same time exciting and scary.

Summery Sechelt

It’s been three months already. And these past few weeks had not been enough for both of us to totally grasp the reality that we’re actually together. A lot of times, my husband asks me if I am really here–taking most of his space (closet, drawer top, shelves and the bed) and I have to keep on reminding him that I’m not an apparition. We’re in a state of bliss but I wish I could say that’s the end of the illusive “happily ever after” that we’re all chasing. It’s not. Back when we were struggling through the long distance set-up, the ultimate goal was to find the means to end the virtual togetherness. And now that we have surpassed that, the more difficult part of the dance has to be learned and mastered.

We could say we’re still in that honeymoon phase and we’ve got the time to be careless, silly and idle. Yet we also know that the bigger responsibilities are just around the corner. Back then, our only worries were how to make the most of our stolen moments that were spanning different time zones. Happiness then was cheap and superficial. Now  comes the more serious and more responsible stuff where relationship goals are on an entirely different level.

Clouded in the generic and safe term of ‘settling down’, there’s work to speak of, finances, rebuilding a career, being able to have our own home soon, kids in the not-so-distant future and the scary yet otherwise doable responsibilities that all these entail. I guess the end of our love story is the beginning of another one, but this time with bigger and more serious roles to fill.

For now though, we’re beyond ecstatic chasing the last days of summer, very content with the fact that all the summers after this will be spent together. Thank you to the higher powers…and yes, to that immigration officer. 😉

Dear Local Tourist

In photo: R.K. Brett @ Kiltepan Sunrise Viewdeck

Another long weekend has passed and you’re probably posting your pictures on Facebook and Instagram about your marvelous trip to Sagada. Those numerous photos you’ve taken using that ridiculous monopod which you’ve waved around town while you clicked at ooh-this and aah-that with your face always somewhere in the picture. You become the envy of your friends for you were able to ‘conquer’ Sagada and you went on indulging them with your stories of mountains and Igorots. Blah-blah, yada-yada.

Forgive the cynicism but you make us hostile. Yes you bring moolah to our place. You eat our food, sleep in our beds, buy our goods—you’ve created one major livelihood for us. But this does not entitle you to act like you own the town. The first rule in entering a place beyond your territory is to display utmost respect to its people, their values, and the environment. If you cannot do that, then Sagada is undeniably not for you.

You must have overlooked the fact that Sagada is a small 5th class municipality and we’ve never packaged our place as a pretentious getaway haven that caters to your city comforts (not unless you’ve been misled by your travel agencies who, if you happen to know, are not natives to the place and do not know jack about the community). It grates our ears when you come here being stuck up while you look for your Starbucks and your McDonald’s. You snobbishly demand for towels and hotel amenities from our lodges and homestays yet you must have forgotten that you’re only paying a measly sum for your accommodation (FYI, we have the cheapest inn charges). (Another side but necessary note: My blood still boils whenever I think of that cheap visitor who stole my boots and my books when we’ve graciously welcomed you to utilize my own room just so you can have a roof over your head for the night.) Our wood-paneled rooms are clean, warm, and cozy and if you think you should be getting more than these from your 300PhP or less, then you’re bonkers. We don’t run hotels, we’re humble innkeepers.

You grumble sneeringly at our fluctuating internet signal and act as if your disconnection from wawawa means your life. We don’t need to remind you that you’re in a rustic town way up high in the mountains where people have long since lived lavishly and generously without the internet and your urban sophistications.

You know, we’re willing not to mind your tactless disregard of our reverence and preference for simple living—that which we wish to supposedly share with you. But you go beyond being gauche. You come to our place and ask for jutes or mj or ganja like it’s buying pandesal from the next door bakery. You regard the locals as if we’re nitwits and you mock our ethnicity with your ignorance. Your incessant and stupid (for lack of a better but apt term) queries about where to find Igorots with their tails, Igorots who stage dances for your sheer pleasure, and Igorots living in caves makes the Igorot in me want to throw my Igorot spear at you.

You come and litter our place without the tiniest thought for our town’s cleanliness, cause public disturbance like you’re still back in your sleepless cities, invoke heavy traffic with your vans and SUVs—mindless of ‘no parking’ signages posted right where you senselessly parked your vehicle. You do not heed our municipal ordinances and even have the audacity to be arrogant when we try to relay these to you.

It’s pretty obvious I’ve zeroed in on local tourists. Truth is, we’ve grown biased and have come to appreciate foreign visitors more because they know how to appreciate us back. Since the town opened its doors to tourism decades back, foreigners have kept on coming back for the countryside experience which Sagada primarily offers. They come with nothing else but their big backpacks and the expectations of delightful experiences with our nature and our people. They don’t come seeking for what’s not here, they’re not pretentious, they give reverence to our traditions and are not at all ignorant with regards to Sagada’s taboos and values.

Though time has inevitably changed the whole backdrop, we have kept our values in place. We Sagadans still appreciate the same things. We give the highest reverence to our simplistic rural life and if you can’t respect that, you and your toffee-nosed self do not deserve the Sagada experience.

I have to stop. My obvious hostility might drive you away. Do bear in mind that I do not at all reflect the whole town’s sentiments. And as another disclaimer, I am not generalizing. There are a lot of local tourists who are in awe of the place and its people, for what it is and for who we are. You are the kind of visitors we would love to keep on coming back.

Respect begets higher respect. So if you encounter a Sagadan with raised brows and you find we’re not as friendly and hospitable as we innately are, you know there’s a reason for our hostility.

Dear Ex-Boyfriend

The ‘THIS IS IT’ kiss. 😉

There are a few things I can vividly remember during that momentous day when we decided to tie the knot of eternity (you in your quickly-pressed polo and slacks and I in my 60-dirham dress, haha). You said that when you first saw my picture wearing that pink top, you somehow knew I was the one you were going to marry. I was a complete stranger then but you knew. Well, your gut feel didn’t fail you. That day was the first time I ever tied someone’s necktie. It took 26 years for me to finally do that. I also remember spending the evening dinner with you in Mama’s kitchen as we frantically washed all those plates, thinking about the same things. Not to mention that we experienced two blackouts. I mean two blackouts on your wedding night? Who gets to experience that? And how we ended the day giggling like teenagers because it felt surreal that we were actually married.

Remember how we literally roller-coastered the highways just so we could file our papers on time. We were both having jet lags from our flights but there was no time to catch up on sleep and rest as we had to reach home the soonest before the offices  we had to visit close. To make matters worse, our ride got stuck in the middle of nowhere and so we had no choice but to wait for the next passing bus that will take us home–with those countless luggage that still had airport tags on them.

Upon reaching home, there was no time to refresh or even wash our faces as we marathoned our seminars with all those mandatory offices. It was really tiring and a bit frustrating but we managed to do all those with the meager time we had while holding hands all the time.

And you remember this seminar where we unashamedly answered how we understood copulation? Who knew there were supposedly five stages of the act. *blush, blush*

It’s just a year ago but somehow it feels like it’s been eons already.

We already have a list of all these cool, kick-ass names that we’re supposed to give to our thick-haired future kids. We’ve argued over them time and time again as we ticked off names from A-Z (Aaliyah to Zyx; Hahaha!) . We have also decided on what dog to get. I insisted on these humongous breeds but you’re hesitant about keeping a saliva-dripping St. Bernard or Great Dane in that dream little cabin of ours. You wanted a pug or English Bulldog and so we settled on the latter (and a St. Bernard, we have to love!). We’ve also made sleeping arrangements as you don’t like sharing a bed with Byte, or Bark, or Bolt, or Max (and all those other furry love that we’re going to have); you on the couch, me and the furry babies on the bed.

We plan to travel and get lost in the world before parenthood will rob us off these carefree thoughts and plans and as to date, we’re still working our butts off for this to happen. We have these gazillion plans that we draw in the air and which we mull over for endless hours.

It’s just a year but I feel like I can recognize all the sounds and octaves of your farts. Same way that you could always predict whenever a tantrum from me is about to erupt. We don’t finish each other’s sentences as is presumably ideal for soul mates but instead, we perpetually disagree over the most minute of details. We’ve seen each other at our worst and yet we always, always manage to end the day with the comforting thought that our hearts will always beat beside each other.

We’re like two kids, learning and growing with each day spent together. I learn so much from you as I hope you do the same with me. I could not wait for the time to come when I could start learning and mastering my kitchen skills as I prepare 3-minute to 1-hour dishes for you. Same way that I’m excited for the time when we’ll have to take turns dropping the kids off to school. Me in my bad-ass, fiery, yellow Wrangler and you in your puny little jeep. (Haha! Ambitious me.) But seriously, I look very much forward to getting fat with you.

The most wonderful thing is that we were able to do these even though we’re still challenged by this distance. It was not at all easy. We both know we’ve braved a lot of tough times. But we did it together and we continue to hold on like we did since day one. We continue to pray that this frustrating separation will finally end. By then, we both know it won’t just be building sandcastles in the air anymore. We could actually do everything together as what a man and wife should do.

Cheers to a wonderful year! Here’s to many more!

Marriage is being foolish together.
Marriage is being foolish together.

P.S. Thank you dear husband for being very patient with my drama, my tantrums, my quirks and flaws. Thank you for always telling me that I’m beautiful. (Well you should! Ha!) I promise to love you even when all your hairs will fall and you’re toothless and wrinkly and even when you keep the remote control all to yourself. I love you garud. ^_^

Barefoot Chronicles: Panabungen, Besao  

A two-hour, bumpy ride through verdant mountains brought us from Kin-iway, Besao to Panabungen. Panabungen is a sitio of Brgy. Laylaya which is host to some of the Episcopal Diocese of the Philippines’ livelihood support programs. The Episcopal Church’s foundation has been spearheading programs that benefit residents in chosen areas of various provinces around the archipelago.

I’ve been lucky to have a friend (thanks Arianne! 🙂 ) who’s an active advocate of programs that are being implemented in the place. Today, they’re dynamically promoting the organic growing and cultivation of mango trees and hog-raising thru organic feeding and methods as well. I had the opportunity to meet several beneficiaries of these programs and witness the educational immersion of the foundation’s staff with the community members.

It was a very fulfilling experience. I had the pleasure of being with a jolly company and the opportunity of setting foot on another part of our province. This is when we say we become tourists in our own place. One of the secret wonders of our mountain ranges is that there’s always someplace new to set foot on. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, there sprawl thousands of rambling acres that are yet to be explored and enjoyed. I could brave hours and hours of a bumpy ride if it means looking at the endless lush and greens of our mountains.

I look forward to going back to the place and this time around, it’s to help pick the mangoes come summertime. (Arianne, *wink*)

Pinay Diaries: Going Dorothy (There’s No Place Like Home)

Life now. :)
Life now. 🙂

It’s been a month. After making that fateful decision of starting a new life away from what I’ve grown accustomed to for more than two years (albeit not comfortably as I would have wanted to), I now find myself smelling like a dog, gaining more than a few unnecessary pounds, being a freeloader under Mama’s roof, and basking in the pressure-less lifestyle of the unemployed.

The ultimate resolution to come home was a choice that was spurred both by circumstances which I don’t have control over on and the personal resolve that I mulled over for countless sleepless nights. But I am not writing this to justify whether I made the better decision or not. I write this for the sole reason to emphasize that nothing will ever come close to the bliss and contentment of being home with your loved ones.

 For the past weeks, I’ve occupied myself with spending time with the family. I’ve devoted myself to the idea of making the most of home as I realized how much I have missed the simple yet irreplaceable joys of family and being home.

 Each day is met with luxuriating under the covers while the hairs of my ears prickle with the morning chill. Nothing says good morning better than the sound of roosters crowing and the familiar smell of Arabica coffee. The rest of the day is spent juggling hours among trekking, biking, walking the dogs, some house chores, making myself a bit useful in my sister’s shop (though I could only do so much), and struggling to steal internet connection that has drastically been evasive since I came back.

 Life back in my hometown has never seemed so busy and exciting. Knowing how easily I tire from routine, I anticipate my butt to start itching probably when I reach the second month mark. But for some reason or reasons, I don’t fear the uncertainty. That of which has always plagued me to my wits’ end before. The uncertainty I’m expecting nowadays has never felt safer. Strange, but yes. I’m welcoming the ambiguity with open arms. This decision has obviously paved me a blank slate so I could start with anything—either it be the most expected next step or a completely unforeseen one. Whatever the next stride would be, I’m sure it’s going to be awesome.

 The best thing about being back home is the feeling of security and safety. Being assured that your loved ones have your back, even physically this time, is just priceless. So yes, I’m not saying I’ve closed my doors to the possibilities of life outside my comfort zone. New is good. Change is good. Foreign is good. But not now. Till then, I’ll be very happy filling out my diary pages with how green the hills are, how crazy the dogs can get and how delicious ‘daing’ is especially when you eat it with your bare hands.

I Will Fix My Broken Pen

The Irony
The Irony

Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I chose my current job for this main reason but unfortunately such is not the case. I feel deceived.

I realized that when I write just to write, I am happy. But when I write because I am required to, it feels oppressive.

This is seriously breaking my heart. Crumpled papers and broken pens (or make that blinking cursor on an empty page) have become familiar sights recently.

Writers have blocks. But this is not it. This is more like a flare reduced to an ember and then an ember that’s doused with water. Yet I refuse to believe that the passion’s gone. A true love can never be gone.

This is me convincing myself that it may just be the work environment. That the idea of being tied to a chair all day long while you squeeze your brains out for a decent write-up just does not cut it. (Not to mention other unfortunate factors and circumstances that made me break my pen. But that’s another story.) 

So yes, I am not contending the great mind behind the adage. Unfortunate, bordering to tragic, circumstances have just blown my writing confidence and passion out of proportion. But like everything else, this too shall pass. This too shall pass.

Happiness is…

“Happiness is a warm puppy.

You and me, and babies so furry.”


Artwork: Neyruz Abu Jamra (
Copy:  Wendy Brett
Him, Me, Byte, Bark and Oleg/Boris/Putin
Him, Me, Byte, Bark and Oleg/Boris/Putin
Till then love. :)
Till then love. 🙂


A Probinsiyana’s UPCAT Story

Dear Ole 'Oble' (lifted from the UPFI page)
Dear Ole ‘Oble’ (lifted from the UPFI page)

This year, approximately 85,000 to 88,000 hopefuls took the University of the Philippines College Admission Test. Though an alumna, I still find the numbers overwhelming. That is to take into consideration that  a couple and then some years ago, I took the same exam without the foggiest idea that thousands after thousands try to get into the country’s premier state university yearly. I did not know who Oble was much less the existence of the word oblation. I was that clueless and ignorant.

Coming from a town where it was more or less a given that  high school graduates either go to the nearest city or the province’s capital for college, I somehow expected the country’s Summer Capital to be my next home for the next four years or so. So three or four months before graduation, all these universities and colleges visited public and private high schools to bait new fish into their institutions. Those that required college admission tests even went as far as to bring the exams to a common testing center in the province, to save us from taking the six-hour bus ride to the city just for this.

I never really had clear plans for college. All I knew was that I’d probably enroll in a good university and take up Nursing because that was what my mother said. And I was cool with that.

I loved school. Strange as it may sound but I loved doing home works and reports and exams. But at the same time, I took every opportunity to get a break from school. If taking college exams meant a very valid excuse to be off school, I took all those exams. UPCAT included.

So yes, I took UPCAT for the sole reason that I wanted to have a day off school. That was how much of a numb skull I was with regards to making decisions for college. I was so clueless about the opportunities, growth, and edge an Isko will have with UP being the final step before starting in the real world. Some even enroll in review classes purposefully for the test, which I came to learn later on. Kumbaga sa Hunger Games, sila yung careers. And there I was who only saw the exam as a means to skip classes. But I guess all the ancient gods and demi-gods of my tribe smiled down on me that day. And yes, I probably paid attention in most of my subjects. That too.

That was basically how I underwent UPCAT. Armed with sheer confidence (or not), two packs of Nagaraya, and the bliss of skipping school that day, I leisurely took the exam and shaded those boxes without any pressure, and noticing every now and then that the proctor was cute.  After the long hours, I was just so glad to get out from the testing rooms and was excited about my next meal. I remember it was raining that time and it was hard getting a pedicab ride to the eateries so my classmates and I crowded around this sari-sari store near the school instead. It was chi-chiria and soft drinks galore till we had to take the last jeep back home. It was a well-spent day away from school and I never really thought about the test after that.

The school year was about to end. Everyone had decided where to enroll to already. My mind was 70% made up that I will take veterinary medicine in another state university. Then it was summer. Someone said I made it. I was cynical as I never received any mails (we live in the mountains hence maybe the delay). Days passed and there was still no letter to confirm so I went to one of the few internet shops in town just to check, (again, we live in the mountains and the internet access back then was close to nil). I checked my name and there it was. I was happy. But my mother was happier.

So yes, from Nursing to DVM to being a bona fide Iska at University of the Philippines-Diliman’s College of Mass Communication, that’s how it went.

A couple and then some years later, I still proudly wear my University shirts, I follow UAAP updates,  rejoice and cry with the

Kasya pa!
Kasya pa!

Maroons, I subscribe to every UP page on Facebook and hope to someday see my kids study in the same school. I would maybe encourage them to review and thoroughly prepare so they could get in as Oblation scholars (ambisyosa lang, haha) and not just pass the qualifying exam by a hair’s breadth like their mother.

To those who will soon be sharing their UPCAT stories, hoping the odds were in your favor during the  test and that such will still be the case for the bigger test after–once you become an Isko or an Iska.

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