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img_3570This blog was last updated in 2010 or 6 yrs. ago when I still have all the time in the world to write about stuff haha. I’m still very busy with a full-time corporate job, a start-up travel agency and of course I’ve been traveling locally and abroad. I guess if you’re really passionate about something, you can (should) always find time to do it.

My goal is to feature a previous travel adventure/destination at least once a month and hopefully increase the frequency soon.

Friends and travel mates, let me know what you want to see first by choosing from the choices below. The top location (1 each for local and international) will be featured by the end of the month (hopefully :))

Local

  1. Canyoneering in Cebu
  2. El Nido, Palawan
  3. Manila Staycation Ideas
  4. Trek to Kalinga (Buscalan Village) – Meeting Wang-Od
  5. Caving Adventure in Pinipisakan Falls, Samar
  6. Beach Glamping Experience
  7. Top Beaches in the Philippines
  8. Sagada, Mountain Province

 

International

  1. Phuket, Thailand
  2. Bagan, Myanmar
  3. California (Los Angeles or San Francisco)
  4. San Antonio, Texas
  5. Dubai
  6. Sri Lanka Journey
  7. Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya)
  8. Xi’an, China (Terracota Warriors)
  9. Seam Reap, Cambodia
  10. Taiwan

 

Let me know! 🙂

He will rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. – Psalm 72:8 (NIV)

I turned 28 years old last month. A turning point in anyone’s life could be a major decision like going abroad, starting a family, venturing into a new business or for me; it’s a simple as discovering new things that you can be really passionate about such as diving.

Several months back, When AirPhil Express offered a round trip ticket from Manila to Davao for just 1,000 pesos; I booked a flight right away and contacted my Aunt whose family resides in Davao to let her know that I’m going there for a vacation. It’s either I climb Mt. Apo or I go for an open water diving certification; the latter I have been planning to do for more than a year now. My uncle, who is a certified diving instructor, offered his services so I started to see one of my dreams coming into reality.

DAY 1 started with the pool training in the morning and then we finished in the afternoon with a lecture to go over some of the important modules in the manual. Since there are only 2 students, we finished earlier than expected. The good thing is I was able to read the SDI training manual prior to the actual training. I had a hard time with the skills training on clearing the mask. Whenever I try to blow the water out, I keep on blowing from my mouth. Well, my uncle was very patient so I successfully did it after several tries. It’s really hard at the start to get yourself accustomed to breathing under water even if you are just under the pool and only a few feet deep. Well, the real adventure starts in the ocean.

DAY 2 started early for us to catch the diving boat courtesy of Carabao Diving Center. It is one of the newest diving centers in Davao City but they have gained the #1 status already. If you are looking for cheap buys, my uncle said this is the place you should visit. He was right! I got a pair of boots for just 1,000 pesos.

We went to Talikud Island, southwest from the famous Samal Island, and visited two diving sites. Just around 1 hour away, we started with Coral Gardens. It is famous for its sandy sea floor and base slopes. We had our first open water skills training here and we went as deep as 16.8 meters and stayed under the water for 39 minutes. Not bad for a beginner! Next stop is the Dapia dive site. I really had a hard time equalizing and my ears started to hurt but I managed to to go as deep as 20.8 meters. This one lasted for 44 minutes. This place has an amazing coral gardens and coral covered reefs. We tried to search for sea horses and although we did not find any, we had a feast of other sea creatures.

One of the cheapest open water diving certification in the country

DAY 3 – we went to Samal Island and again visited 2 diving sites to finish our certification. The first stop is San Juan. I’m not sure but I think this is the place where I found nemo and saw a sea snake for the first time in my life. We went as deep as 20 meters and the dive lasted 51 minutes. Lastly, we went to Marissa 2. The Marissa Dive site is actually 3 dive spots (1, 2 and 3) located southeast of Samal Island near Pearl Farm. It is a whole new world of unique deep sea features visible even at a shallow depth. The last dive was my deepest dive at 21.6 meters but my shortest dive because it only lasted for 27 minutes. Long story but let’s just say that I have to make an emergency ascent because of equipment malfunction.

My uncle trying to prevent me from ascending

Finding Nemo

My diving buddy Xandra and myself learning how to signal OK

The poisonous sea snake! Contrary to popular beliefs, this sea creature is very passive.

You can access my Multiply page to view more of the diving pictures.

My 28th birthday was the day I got certified as a diver. It was the same day when I literally ran out of air 10 meters deep and halfway through the dive because of an equipment malfunction. Thank God I managed to ascend just in time when the gauge showed 0% oxygen content.

Below is a video of “Still” – one of my all-time favorite songs courtesy of Hillsong Church. This video reminds me of one of my other struggles in the diving certification and that is trying to remain neutrally buoyant. A lot of times during the dive, I can’t keep myself from ascending. My uncle said, just remain calm and be still and you should see yourself go down in a few. It works! This song teaches us that despite our busy schedule wherein we are so much preoccupied with a lot of things and despite the daily challenges that we are facing, there is a God out there who can calm the raging seas and work in our lives. Under the water, I felt closer to God. I felt His creations spoke His majesty. Under the water, I have learned to be Still and experienced the beauty of God’s marvelous underwater creations.

The LORD does whatever pleases him throughout all heaven and earth, and on the seas and in their depths. – NLT

A lot of my friends already asked me to visit other countries especially in the South East Asian region since they knew that I love to travel. I always say I wanted to and I think I can afford especially with the airfare promos being offered left and right. However, there’s only one reason why I can’t right now. I still don’t have a passport!

My friends are oftentimes surprised why I still don’t have one. I intend to but I have one major reason why I still can’t find myself in the DFA office. I don’t feel the urge yet to travel outside the Philippines given that I still have a lot of places to visit here. I started the passion to travel 2 years ago and since then I became an advocate of local tourism. My parents always ask me to limit it and start saving up for my future. However, the travels that I have made so far, although tiring, always make me feel rejuvenated with all the stress at work. I don’t think I will last working at night for almost 7 years now without it. After every trip, I always stand in awe of God’s creations. I could not thank Him enough for giving me eyes to explore the wonders of nature.

Since I can’t sleep, I tried to list down all the places I have been to so far. I hope I can still remember everything. I still feel I have not traveled a lot compared to my friend Aileen. My list is nothing compared to her LOL.

  • May 2006 – General Santos and Davao City (with side trip to South Cotabato) – my first airplane experience via Cebu Pacific with Rose, Echel, Israel, Kathleen, Jodi and Ate Dess. I went to Davao just for 1 day then traveled to General Santos City for a short-term missions trip. I won’t forget the buffet meal in Davao city for just 100 pesos and the taxi drivers who will give you your change even if it’s just 1 peso.

  • November 2007 – Bicol Region by land. My longest land travel up until now. Of course, we went to the Cagsawa Church Ruins and climbed up to 2/3 of Mt. Mayon by car. The food was really great in this part of the country!

  • July 2008 – Boracay Island, Aklan Province – my first real vacation via Sea Air with my cousin Zeiy and my brother Meldrin. I even re-booked my ticket to stay for one more day just to try para-sailing!

  • March 2009 – Coron Island, Palawan (Busuanga) – my first vacation via Zest Air with my Mom and brother Gerald and still with Zeiy and Meldrin. I’m planning to go back there next year and try the diving sites. My first fun hike at Mt. Tapyas happened on the 1st day then we went to Maquinit Springs, the only saltwater lake in the Philippines. Siete Pecados I think is the one of the best snorkling site in Palawan. We also went to Kayangan Lake, the cleanest lake in the Philippines, Awesome!

  • June 2009 – Bohol Island – same group of people as Coron’s but now with Zeiy’s husband (her boyfriend back then). My first PAL experience (Philippine Airlines). This place is famous for Chocolate Hills, the Philippine Tarsiers (I think the smallest monkey in the world) and the white beach of Panglao.

  • September 2009 – Boracay Island – my 2nd visit to the island to celebrate my birthday with Gladys, Robin, Elai, Caloy, Echel and Elo.

  • November 2009 – Calbiga, Samar (with road trips to Calbayog and Catbalogan City, Samar) with Aileen, C2, Paolo, Xian, Lei and Erwin.. I only booked my flight 2 days before the trip. This was the first time that my plane left me because I went to the wrong terminal. I can say that this is the most extreme adventure I ever had by living inside the cave for 2 days. We explored the Longun-Gobingob caves, the largest karst formation in Southeast Asia. Despite all the challenges, I’m planning to go back there on October.

  • January 2010 – Caramoan Island and CWC Watersports Complex, Camarines Sur with the Calbiga group less Erwin but plus my brother Meldrin and Berto. Caramoan Island was great but it was raining when we visited. I definitely want to go back there. We had fun in CWC trying wakeboarding for the first time. I think I’m athletic but this is definitely not my sport!

  • February 2010 – Puerto Princesa, Palawan. First time to be with my family except for my brother Gerald. We went there along with my brother Derick and his wife Jodi, my brother Meldrin and my parents. Of course we went to Honda Bay for snorkling and to the Underground River.

  • May 2010 – Batanes Island with Jaja. We got a buy 1 take 1 Seair promo from a Travel Expo. It’s a totally different world out there. Check my related post for this trip.

  • June 2010 – Tacloban City, Leyte and Jiabong, Eastern Samar plus a trip to Calicoan Island Western Samar – with Aileen, Berto, Xian, Paolo and my brother Meldrin. This was our 2nd caving adventure. Aside from spelunking, the food trip is indeed worthwhile but the road trip was very tiring. We went to Stefanies to try the buffet twice. This is a must when going to Tacloban.

Future Trips

  • August 2010 – Dumaguete and Siquijor
  • September 2010 – Davao to learn scuba diving
  • October 2010 – back to Samar f0r 3rd spelunking adventure

The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands…. – Deuteronomy 28:12 (NIV)

I prayed to God for the rain to stop. But God has a different plan. He wanted to show that he is sovereign in all things. He made the rain pour heavily into the streets of Fort Bonifacio for more than an hour. As usual, the Rock and Run event pushed through with no delay. There were no live bands that played along the route as  publicized previously, no concert afterwards (maybe there’s one but I left the event after I finished); but I can say that the event was one of my most memorable run so far.

Wet look after running in the rain for almost an hour

with my brother Meldrin

I joined the Rock and Run event yesterday (June 19th) in Fort Bonifacio for one major reason; it won’t be held on a Sunday morning unlike majority of the racing event out there. For me, Sunday morning will always be best spent in my local church in Bulacan. Before the race, we went to Fitness First to change clothes. When we are about to go to the starting line at around 5:25 PM, heavy rain started to pour. I looked at the dark clouds and I felt like it will never stop just in time for the gun shot at 6PM. My running buddy Aileen decided not to risk her health and went back inside the gym to just run in a treadmill. I initially hesitated but my adventurous nature still convinced me to give it a try. This would be another experience that I will definitely cherish and I’ll just worry about the aftermath of possibly getting a cold or a flu.

Starting line before the rain

While still raining heavily, the 10K race started at around 6:05PM. The band tried to play but I think they have to turn off the sound system for safety reason so they just improvised using drum rolls to keep the excitement going. The participants (including me) started shouting while running. We heard thunders but the noise coming from the runners was loud enough to keep us going. After around 10 minutes, you can only hear the constant rain drops. There was no more shouting. I guess it started to sink in that we are running wet all through out with heavy wet shoes and clothes. I was afraid that I won’t finish the race. There were some flooded areas that made the route even more difficult. Worst, I was  forced to look down while running because my face and eyes cannot bear the heavy rain. Knowing that it’s a bad move to look down while running (we always have a tendency when we get tired), I looked up and told myself “let it rain, let it rain”. To my amazement, the rain gave me renewed strength. I started to run faster than ever, since I started racing last February. I finished the race in 54 minutes and 40 seconds. Thank God! I never went below 1 hour in a 10K run. This was my best finish so far after a 1:01 clock time last April in the Mizuno run. Congratulations as well to my brother Meldrin for finishing in the 5K category.

Literally, this event is indeed a wet and wild experience. While the race is fondly called “Rock and Run” because they are supposed to feature live band performances from the stage and along the route, it turned out to be “Rain and Run”. Thanks to the organizers for still pushing through. I know they hesitated as well because they didn’t expect the sudden change in the weather but I want to give a big KUDOS to them for still letting us experience running while raining. I did not hear any complaints about misleading signs, incorrect turns etc. I will definitely not criticize them for not having the “Rock” atmosphere because it is no longer important that night. Congratulations to all, with brave souls, finished their respective events (3k, 5K, 10K). For those who chose not to continue (I saw several people who decided to stay in the gym or just joined the spectators), you have made a good choice for not risking your health but you missed all the fun! Even though I failed to bring my iPod touch (I always play music while running), the song in my heart motivated me to give my 100% strength. God made it rain for a specific reason, so I said in response “let it rain, let it rain!”.

More pictures in my Flickr page here.

Watch the You Tube video of Michael W. Smith’s song entitled “Let It Rain”.

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1 NIV)

After experiencing a very hot weather for the past several months, it started raining again in Manila. The weather bureau predicted that the rainy season will start next month. It’s a good thing that I got a chance to travel to an island in the Northern part of Luzon prior to the typhoon season. Of all the places I have visited so far, I can say that this is one of the best in terms of breathtaking views and scenery (Coron, Palawan is my other favorite). I am talking about no other than the island of Batanes.

I stayed in the island for 4 days and 3 nights (May 29-June 1, 2010) so this post will be the 1st of the series of blogs about this adventure. I can think of so many things to write about (the itinerary, the food, the culture/people and the accommodation) but I will try to finish everything in 4 parts.

Jaja and I bought the airline ticket as part of the SEAIR promo in a travel expo in SMX back in February. The deal was buy one take one so we booked it even with hesitations not knowing if we can really travel at the specified dates. On board a 30-seater Dornier plane via SEAIR, we left Manila at 8AM last May 29. The flight was 10 minutes ahead of schedule and we arrived in the Basco, Batanes airport almost 30 minutes ahead of the estimated arrival. We were picked up by our hotel service and arrived at Hiro’s Cafe at 10AM. Our contact there is Ms. Lydia (contact number 0915-940-4823). She was very accommodating and since our rooms are not yet ready because of the earlier arrival, she offered brunch for free. We had Tocilog as our first meal in the island.

After the meal, we went to Batanes Seaside Lodge and Restaurant (just 5 minutes away from Hiro’s cafe) for our standard check-in. Given that there’s only 2 of us and the usual rate for accommodation with tours caters to at least a group of 4, we got a real good deal at Php6,000/pax inclusive of room and board, full board meals, island tours and hotel transfers. At noon, we went back to Hiro’s cafe for our lunch. I thought it will just be another meal but to my surprise; they served lobsters, steamed lapu-lapu and more. The meals were served ala carte but the servings are really generous. I thought that this is just the hotel’s way of welcoming guests on the 1st day and then regular meals will be served afterward but I was totally wrong. I will write a full account of the food/cuisine in Batanes with some pictures probably next week. Let’s proceed to our Day 1 itinerary.

After lunch, we were introduced to the rest of the group that will be part of our tour. We have met Rachel and Anne plus the Castro Family (Ishi and her parents Mon and Millie).

We rode a jeepney and went towards the North of Basco at the Department of Agrarian Reform Beneficiary land, overlooking the rocky beach of Chadpidan, facing northen Island towards Taipei viewing the pastureland of the Ivatan Folks. The first stop was what they called the “Rolling Hills” wherein the ridges at the boundaries are with similarities to the pasture land of Holland.

Nice view of the rolling hills in Batan Island, Batanes with Anne and Rachel, the Castro family (Millie, Ishi and Mon), Jaja and myself

We then went to a beach with very large rock formations. The place is not suitable for swimming because of strong waves but a great view for photo shoot and our local tour guide Nelson calls the place “border/boulder beach”. I never had a chancee to confirm which is correct. I am still waiting for some more pictures from my friend but here’s a mono view of the place courtesy of Ironwulf.net.

The last stop for Day 1 was the Light House in Basco with breath taking view on its surroundings. We were supposed to go to Chanpan Fishing Village in Valugan (facing the Pacific Ocean) but it started raining and we had to walk around 1 kilomoter, the group decided to finish the tour at the lighthouse. We tried to climb the lighthouse to take some more pictures on top but the windows are closed because of strong winds. The tour guide assured us that there’s nothing to be disappointed about because Day 1 is just the beginning of what Batanes has to offer and there’s a lot more to come. He is exactly right. In the next posts, I will write about our trip to Sabtang Island and it’s unique Ivatan Homes; our visit to the Honesty store and to a grazing land popularly known as Marlboro Country and more.

Batanes Lighthouse

As I look back in my recent trip, I can’t help but thank God for His marvelous works. The song by Third Day that was also performed by Chris Tomlin (he just visited Manila last month) entitled “God of Wonders” speaks of God’s holiness and majesty through His creations. He is indeed the Lord of heaven and earth; the Lord of Ivatans and the small but awesome island called Batanes!

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will RUN and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)

After 2 consecutive trail runs outside Manila, I went back to road running last night (May 23, 2010) courtesy of CCAP (Contact Center Association of the Philippines) in Mall of Asia Complex. This race is another unforgettable experience because it’s my first time…..

  • To join a race at night. Just imagine that you don’t need to worry about the heat of the sun.
  • To race in Mall of Asia complex (near my office). I have run in Mall of Asia (MOA) for practice but this is the first time I joined an official event here. I think MOA is now running 2nd to Fort Bonifacio as the favorite venue for fun run in the Metro.
  • To be with a lot of office mates. It’s a good thing that the event was dubbed as the Call Center Fun Run night. We had our own registration in the office. More than 10 TeleTech employees from my account joined (Asher, Arnold, Jane, Ice, Arjay, Richard, Raymond, Oscar etc.).
  • To run with fever and headache. I woke up early Sunday morning feeling sick. Thank God I made it to the finish line.
  • Not to miss a church service in Sunday morning. I felt guilty that for my past races, I have to skip our church service in Bulacan. This time, I went to church in the morning and then run at night. Put God first!

It’s a good thing that CCAP organized a fun run for call center/BPO employees. Despite the graveyard shift, this is a venue to promote healthy living and fit body. The organizer said that they will hold the event every year. Given that it’s the first run organized by CCAP, here’s my review of the race pending the results that will be posted in this blog soon.

  1. The gun shot for 10K is supposed to start at 9:20Pm but it started 40 minutes late. When we arrived there at 9PM for the assembly, we saw a lot of participants still lined up in the booth to claim their race kit and singlets. It’s a good thing that they asked Fitness First representatives to hold a warm-up dance/stretching session and I think most of us enjoyed it.
  2. I don’t have a sports watch that can accurately measure distance but judging from my past races, I really don’t think that the route is just 10 kilometers. I believe it is somewhere between 11K and 12K. Last week, I joined the Men’s Health Trail Run in Nuvali, Laguna and I clocked 1:08 after passing through several rivers and traversing a difficult trail. For the same distance but this time running on a concrete road, I clocked 1:09. Something is not right.
  3. Given that it’s Sunday night in the première entertainment mall of the country, we had some delays because of passing vehicles. They tried to block some roads but the traffic is just too heavy to prevent all vehicles from cutting through our routes.
  4. Given a lot of BPO/Call center companies in Manila, I think that the event was not successfully promoted. The number of participants was less than I expected. In fact, the event was only posted in Takbo.ph only several days before the run.

Enough of the negative sides; I still want to give a big KUDOS to CCAP for coming up with this event. The winners section also had a separate group for call center employees and guest/élite runners to give a chance for amateur runners like us. I did not win a medal but my running buddy Aileen Canos won 3rd place in the 10K female category. This is her 2nd medal after finishing 7th place in the TNF 100 run in Baguio. I went more than a minute ahead of her so that’s my consolation. 🙂

with Aileen and her 3rd place medal

with Aimee, Raymond, myself, Aileen, Asher and Arnold

Check out the complete set of pictures in my Flickr page here.

The night did not end after the race. We still went to a bar in Makati with Aileen, Xian and Kaye to celebrate Aileen’s victory. I don’t know what happened but although feeling tired, my headache was gone. Isaiah 40:31 is indeed a verse to remember last night. He said that those who trusts in Him will renew their strength. We can run and not grow weary. We can walk and not faint. Let’s hold on to God’s promise and continue to enjoy his blessing of a physically and spiritually fit and healthy body.

Below is a famous praise and worship song in our church by Don Moen. The song is entitled “Like Eagles”. Watch the YouTube video and lyrics here:

Coming Soon

Soon to be posted in my travel page – my recent visits this year to Caramoan, Puerto Princesa, Batanes, Siquijor and my past adventures to Boracay, Coron, Bohol and more…

The result of my 2nd trail run is out. Check out the link below for the race results. I ranked 59th out of 266 runners in the 10K division with official finish time of 1:06:05. The event was held last Sunday, May 16. I think I’m enjoying trail run better than the races in the city.

Fast Forward to the near future - Aileen, myself and my brother Meldrin!

http://www.menshealth.com.ph/downloads/ATR2010_RaceResults.pdf

“For the God on the mountain is
still God in the valley.
When things go wrong, He’ll make it right.
And the God of the good times
is still God in the bad times.
The God of the day is still God in the night.”

Different rock formations along the trek brought about by the volcanic eruption almost 2 decades ago

I will never forget my first hiking experience. Not only because it started off my desire to climb mountains but the majestic view is really worth visiting again and again. I’m talking about no other than Mt. Pinatubo bordering the provinces of Tarlac, Zambales and Pampanga. In 1991, the volcano erupted after being dormant for around 500 years and it became a nightmare to a lot of people in Central Luzon after it killed hundreds of lives and left a lot of families homeless. After almost 2 decades, who would have thought that the place can be another great tourist destination for nature lovers?

Early Sunday morning in July of 2009, we rode a  Victory Liner bus bound for Pangasinan and arrived in Capas, Tarlac (near Caltex) just after the sun has risen. Our contact sent a vehicle to pick us up to bring us towards the Capas Shrine and then we reached Bgy. Sta Juliana. From there, we rode a 4×4 vehicle for less than an hour and arrived at the jump-off point.

With a guide, we chose to take a longer trail and it took us around 3 1/2 hours of trekking a very rocky path. The shorter trek will just take less than 1 hour climb because the 4×4 vehicle can pass through the lahar desert while navigating an uphill trail. I would say that the trek is good for beginners and you don’t need to be really physically fit to take the short trail or even the longer one. The long trek is all worth the efforts despite the heat of the sun because of the stone/rock formations and the river crossing adventure.

When we arrived at the summit, words cannot explain the beauty of the crater surrounded by the lake. I was in awe of this God’s masterpiece and the view brought back my lost strength. Of course, we took some pictures and even though there’s a sign that swimming is not allowed, we still swam in the crater despite the warning that the depth of the water is still undetermined at this time.

The captivating view of the Mt. Pinatubo Crater

We took the the shorter trail on our return trip and went back to Manila on the same day. I know for sure that we only had one thing in mind during the return trip –  this place is a must-see and we are definitely going back!

Jumpshot with Camille, myself, Anne, Aileen and Homer

My first-ever trekking adventure reminded me of a song. The lyrics started with the words that life is good on the mountain. By its mere beauty alone, life is indeed good on top of Mt. Pinatubo. However, when reality strikes in, no one can really forget the disaster it brought 2 decades ago. In fact, just a few weeks after our trip, several foreigners died along the trek because of strong river current.

Despite all of this, we must never be discouraged because the God of the mountain is also the God of the valley. The God of the good times is also the God of the bad times. He is indeed sovereign. May the lyrics of the song below speak through your hearts and hopefully encourage you every time you face difficult circumstances in life.

God On The Mountain (words and music by Tracy G. Dartt)

Life is easy when you’re up on the mountain
And you’ve got peace of mind like you’ve never known.
But then things change and you’re down in the valley.
Don’t lose faith for you’re never alone.

For the God on the mountain is still God in the valley.
When things go wrong, He’ll make it right.
And the God of the good times
is still God in the bad times.
The God of the day is still God in the night.

You talk of faith when you’re up on the mountain.
Oh but the talk comes easy when life’s at its best.
But it’s down in the valley of trials and temptation
That’s when faith is really put to the test.

Watch the YouTube video here:

So we will RUN, all together our hearts aflame, with a heart that can’t be tamed, our God O glory to Your name, Jesus! – from the song Run by Hillsong Australia from the album This is our God.

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