I was reading the wikipedia article on Bob Stewart and it sent be back in time again.

Saturdays were days you look forward to as a grade schooler back then. Yup, no classes of course and it’s an entire day of uninterrupted cartoons on Channel 7. It was known then as RBS or Republic Broadcasting System and it was owned and ran and manned by a guy named Bob Stewart or Uncle Bob. He was really hands-on. He’d handle the news, the commercials, and he even had a children’s show, that I just learned took then president Macapagal head on. And Uncle Bob’s Lucky 7 club won.

Back then, we only had one TV, as most households did. Having more than one was unheard of. It was an all-tube Radiowealth that took minutes before a picture came out. And minutes before that small dot disappeared when you turn it off. Well, saturdays, the TV was mine.

My favorite cartoon then was “Beany and Cecil.” The Bob Clampett creation was simply way cooler than other cartoons. The wildman of Wildsville, that shark that sings like Bobby Darin, the Dinah Shore dinosaur that Cecil had a crush on, and of course, Dishonest John or DJ. He was the hip version of Dick Dastardly. Nya-ah-ah! Man, I love those characters. The show did spoofs, satire, and had a knack for playing with words. Catch some episodes in YouTube and you’ll know what I mean.

Popeye. Of course. From the early 30′s episodes to the King Features of the 60′s, Channel 7 showed them all. There are some Popeye episodes from the 30′s that creeped me out like that ghost ship episode. What I like though was when Popeye did that famous scat of his. Some episodes that stuck with me? The new year’s eve party with Olive’s grandma. The Olive for president episode, the one with the catchy tune. And the one when Swee’ Pea got lost in the foundry. And you know what? I’ve always felt sorry for Bluto. He wasn’t really a bad guy. He just craved for attention. He just needed to see a shrink to help him resolve his issues. Har-har. Well, Popeye had other ideas.

Let’s see now, other cartoons. Oh yeah, Gumby. The one with the blob monster scared the hell out of me. Then there are the Harvey Comics cartoons: Casper, Little Audrey, Baby Huey. I also love the ones where you “just follow the bouncing ball” and sing along. I learned how to spell “Mississippi” with that one. Then there’s this “Sinbad” cartoon where Sinbad tightens his belt which then gives him superhuman strength. Now, even for a kid, that was corny. Another corny cartoon was the animated 3 Stooges. There were live portions before and after the cartoons that featured Larry, Moe and Curly Joe that were OK though.

If I remember right, it was the same for Sundays. Channel 7 aired cartoons all day but stopped at 3 pm. That’s when “Eskuwelahang Munti” with Tino Lapuz came in. When you drive by the RBS studios in Highway 54 (EDSA) then, you can even see the wooden hut structure where the show was shot. Probably the only show in Tagalog that Channel 7 had.

Sneakers. Yeah. But here, they’re still commonly referred to as rubber shoes. I wrote a short piece eons ago. It started with my first pair of Edwardsons and ended up with Oscar Obligacion in Oras ng Ligaya. Let me thus continue with my discourse on those kind of shoes that are prohibited to be worn by students on orders of the Augustinian sisters of La Consolacion School during my tenure there as a grade schooler.

With the growing popularity of the MICAA games and the NBA during the early 70′s, another manufacturer came up with another brand of shoes – NBA shoes. How original. They had 3 models when they started: NBA Basketball, which is just a Chuck ripoff. NBA Player, all white canvas with red soles and sides. And NBA Pro, their top model with 3 stripes. It later had 4 stripes when Adidas came into town. It was an Adidas Olympia copy except that it was made of canvas not leather. This was the second pair of sneakers I bought. For 18 pesos a pair. I was mighty proud of them. I wore them during a Saturday practice of a Christmas play during fifth grade. Hey, it wasn’t on a regular school day so we were permitted to wear them. My classmates were envious no end.

Somehow, from that time on, there arose a sort of rubber shoe craze. There came an unusual craving and respect for them shoes. Chucks were relegated to the background and low cut sneakers weren’t just the domain of tennis shoes anymore. Local manufacturers started making Adidas copies. Everything had 3 stripes on them. I remember my brother bought an NBA Pro copy (hey, a copy of a copy huh?) that weighed a ton. It was a US Booster or Master brand, I think. And everyone started ditching their Chuck-inspired sneakers for the new.

Quick rundown of the sneakers I had during the 70s:

  • Bata. Like the NBA player but the rubber sole was green. And it had a U-shaped, I don’t know what you call it, opening for your foot.
  • USA (really, that’s the brand name) Basketball shoes. Just your ordinary Chuck cover.
  • US Booster. They actually made the first locally manufactured all-leather (synthetic really) sneakers. It was a Tiger rip-off. I bought it for P15, at a shoe stall at the Monumento market. The pair lasted a month.
  • ABC. Made by General Rubber of Malabon. I was set to buy their ABC Serval model which was a Puma rip-off but I ended up with their Stan Smith copy.
  • Converse Jack Purcells. Old reliables. They were P30 a pair at Good Earth. The soles were a problem though. Pebbles always get stuck betwen the threads. Quite a hassle.
  • Adidas Match. Finally, my first pair of Adidas. Made (licensed of course) by General Rubber in Novaliches. Great shoes. Canvas body of Blue with white stripes. The soles have an unbelievable grip. Bought this during my senior year. I miss ‘em.
  • Adidas Hurricane. Like an SL-72 model, the one Starsky wears. Nylon uppers, blue again with white stripe. Not much cushion though but it looks way, way cool on flared denims! I’d kill for a pair today. These were my main sneakers during my UP days.
  • Adidas Rod Laver. My friend Manny gave ‘em to me. My first imported pair. Nylon mesh, all white, no stripes. Can’t remember what happened to them.
  • Adidas Vienna. Like ROM but with red and blue stripes on a white leather upper. Slippery pair. You never play basketball with these. I learned that the hard way. Learned later these were trainers.
  • Saucony Jazz. My first pair of running shoes. I couldn’t believe the cushioning. It was feet heaven. Bought the blue with silver trim. It had a sort of waffle thread like Nike’s but the studs were triangle shaped. They fall off. One by one. And that’s the only thing I hated about this shoe.

I am actually quite mixed-up now about dates but there were other pairs I bought and inherited during those years. I remember I also had a Puma Clyde rip-off. A green running shoe I can’t remember the brand. I got a Stan Smith from my sister but it was probably during the 80′s. The last pair I can recall buying during that time were a pair of high-cut Adidas Top Ten basketball shoes from that old Zenco Footstep store in Monumento.

I probably had more than 500 LPs in my collection. Half of that I gave to a friend who’s a more serious collector than I am and half remained with me – my all-time fave LPs. All were damaged on September 26, 2009. Yup, all of them useless. I would’ve settled for just the album covers but…

Ah yes, the old Concertone radio-phono. All-tube, took a while before the sound came out. It had a radio which we rarely used. It had white sliding, accordion-like doors and you can pull out the record player itself for easy access. As was usual in those days, it had the automatic thingy – you stack the 45s on that spindle adaptor and the discs drop down on the rotating platter consecutively. Yup, the original mp3 playlist. The top was glass. So you can see the disc spinning and the tubes glowing. Cool.

And the speaker. It was mono so we had just one huge speaker housed in a really tough wooden cabinet that doubled as a table right in the corner of our living room. The sound was terrible. But it took us through hundreds of 45s and LPs and probably even 78s because I discovered a huge stack of 78s back then that we just didn’t play anymore.

Sometime 1968, a friend of my brothers lent them a portable Philips Stereo Radio-Phono! Wow! It was blue and white and it had two (!) speakers. And they borrowed “The Beatles Second Album,” along with it. Yep, it was the US Capitol LP in stereo. Whoa! Stereo separation. John and Paul’s voice were on one channel, the instruments on another. Far out! Cunningly, my brothers bought a “Never on Sunday” stereo LP by Connie Francis for my pop to hear (my pop’s favorite) and sure enough, off we went to the Concertone dealer in Espana to get us our own stereo.

It was ugly. It looked like a brightly painted coffin. But it was relatively cheap, all tube, all wood, and it had two speakers on stilts. Tee hee. We went on a stereo LP buying spree from then on. Yup, no more “mono.” We’ve arrived. Let’s see – “The Sound of Music”, “The Cascades”, “Lulu – To Sir With Love”, “The Critters – Mr Diengly Sad”, “The Doors”, “Connie Francis Sings Her Favorite Latin Hits”, “The Buckinghams”, etc. Our old mono radio-phono was sold to our neighbor. Goodbye old friend.

Well, the new stereo sounded awful. And oftentimes, the sound would disappear and you had to roughly tap the volume knob to coax the sound back on again. The next thing I knew, our family TV repairman was at home fixing the damn thing. The guy persuaded my pop to change the needle cartridge to a Radiowealth Claire De Lune stereo cartridge. And that he did. Well, there was a noticeable change. And the brightly painted coffin stayed there in the middle of our living room for another year. One of the last albums we bought for that stereo was the Beatles White Album.

1969 and we had a new house. We had to have a new stereo to go with it of course. Can’t have a wake right there on our new living room now can we? There was a Radiowealth dealer on the corner of 10th Ave. nearby. The salesman was busy talking my pop into buying either the “Clair De Lune” or their new “Nocturne LSD.” Yup that’s the model’s real name. It had psychelic lights that moved with the beat of the music, hence the “LSD” tag – the precursor of Winamp’s visualization feature. But both were humongously built as were most stereo sets in those days. It definitely will take up a lot of space. What we needed was a stereo that was compact but can deliver a punch. Enter my oldest brother with his stack of Playboy magazines. There they were, pictures of modular stereos – Pioneer, Sansui, Akai – beautifully photographed with the most enticing of playmates. My pop decided, yep, it was time to move up. We needed a pro stereo setup. Thank you Playboy playmates.

There it was, beautifully nestled in the living room bookcase, our new stereo setup: Sansui speakers, Pioneer amp and receiver, and a Dual (that’s a brand) turntable. Let me tell you, the sound was awesome! Another LP buying spree. And since this was 1969, we bought almost all available LPs by Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck. My mom loved Engelbert. Incidentally, stereo LPs then sold at P15 each.

That stereo setup served us until well into the 80′s. The sound simply can’t be beat. And since it was modular. My brothers would simply take it from the bookcase and set it up in the garage whenever they would hold parties, which pissed off my pop immensely. Oh, since I was the more technical (even at 10), I was tasked with the wiring chores. And I loved it.

My pop, seeing that my brothers have virtually commandeered the Pioneer/Sansui stereo, bought a table model National Panasonic stereo for their bedroom. That was the last sound machine we bought in the 70′s. It was there I played the first LP I bought – Bread’s Guitar Man in 1973, and the 2nd – John Denver’s Poems Prayers & Promises in 1975. There was no stopping me collecting LPs from then on. I only stopped when LPs were replaced by CDs.

34 years after I passed the UPCAT, my daughter has done the same and is now an incoming freshman of the state university this coming school year. Yehey! It was a proud father moment for me when I saw her name on the UPCAT results online. 34 years, was it really that long ago?

I took the UPCAT on October (was it?) 1976 at Benitez Hall in Diliman. My pop dropped me off at the College of Education building and the exam lasted for 4 hours. There weren’t that many examinees back then. There was hardly any traffic or parking problems unlike today. The exam wasn’t really that difficult for me, especially the science and the english parts. It was a different story though with the math part of the exam. Still, I was and still is a great “guesser” when it came to multiple choice tests because come March of the following year, we learned from a friend that I passed. The results then were posted at Quezon Hall, and sure enough, when we got there, there was my name. I got my official notice from UP when we arrived back home that very same day. Uncanny. My father was very proud. Now I know the feeling too.

I went back there May for the physical and a week or so later for the enrollment. Said there on the freshman guide flyer – Parents are strongly discouraged to accompany their sons/daughters during enrollment. That was great! I was really in college and on my own!

My first taste of shock at UP came during the first day of registration for freshmen. I got there (Palma Hall, the College of Arts and Sciences or CAS or AS as it was fondly known then) 7 in the morning thinking that was earlier than enough. I was wrong. The queues were light years long, snaking through stairways and floors. And there were no mp3 players and mobile phones or PSPs to while away the time and I forgot to bring a paperback or anything to read. You can only strike up a conversation with the people next to you to survive. And that was what I did. To this day, the first 2 guys I met then are still my best friends.

I don’t know if this still holds today but incoming freshmen then had to enroll in “blocks” or sections with fixed schedules during the first semester to lessen the “culture shock” so to speak and wean you to life in college. We ended up registering for “Block O-6.” Hmm, M-W-F starts at 1 pm, ends at 5…that’s good. T-Th…oh no! My “Social and Political Thought” class starts at 7 am?!? Good grief. And to think that that was the year Marcos placed the entire country on Daylight Saving Time. So I was actually having a class at 6 in the morning! Horrors! And what was this? CMT? Saturdays? Oh-oh. Bad vibes man, bad vibes.

It was late afternoon when we finished and I still have to return the next day for the assessment and payment. The following day, after finishing with the assessment part, I showed the registration form to my pop. He was grinning from ear to ear, glowing like a christmas light bulb. P475.00 for 18 units! Laboratory fees for my Botany class included. Top that. He was so proud of me, he bought me a year’s subscription to Reader’s Digest. Hey pop, how about the Yamaha guitar I wanted? Nope, Reader’s Digest son, it’ll do you good.

Next, the first day of classes.

This used to be my blog from VOX.  I’ve transferred it here because VOX is closing down on the 30th.

Such a shame if all the memories go to waste so I thought I’d rescue my blog and share it here.

Too morbid a topic huh?  The great leveler.  No matter how much we want to avoid it, death comes.  I am reminded of Woody Allen's quote:  "I'm not afraid of death.  I just don't want to be there when it happens."  

Those stupid theme writing compositions during my grade school years has continually placed me in a predicament.  "Class, after the All Saints Day holidays, write something about your experiences at the cemetery," the teacher would say.  Problem was, we do not go to the cemetery.  At that point, no one in our family was dead yet.  Quite an amusing situation.  I would just wing it, putting my creative mind into use.

1970 was the first death in our family.  My grandmother died after a long bout with diabetes.  The wails you hear when someone dies is exceptionally frightening.  You just know that something really bad happened.  That was what I heard when I rushed to my lola's room that day in November.  When she was interred, I heard those very same wails and somehow you just don't forget it.

I was very close to my grandfather.  He used to drive us, my sister and I, to school everyday in his trusty old jeep.  Quite a colorful character my lolo was.  He deserves a separate post here.  And that's why it hurt so much when he was diagnosed with liver cancer.  Ah, my first bout with those terms:  carcinoma, chemo, etc.  How do you process all that at 12 years old?  The fragility of life?  The inevitability of death?  These were for the grown-ups.  The operation, the months long stay at the hospital, the painful visits to my lolo's room as you see him deteriorate with each passing day, how do you cope with that?  He died one early morning December, 1972, after 2 or 3 months at San Juan de Dios.  By that time, all our tears were already spent.  The abominable wailing was never heard at the hospital room.  We all just said goodbye to our beloved patriarch.  I miss him badly.

Cancer will visit us again in January 1996 when my father was diagnosed with osteosarcoma or bone cancer.  Those terms again.  And it has metastasized, the doctor said.  Another new term.  Coming to grips with my father's sickness at 35 years of age was different.  This time, it was about the endless bills.  And the bad thing was, even with all the expenses, it was a losing battle.  After a month, he was gone.  The whole ordeal made a wreck out of my mom who was nearly hospitalized herself.  Looking back, I was not that close to my father.  He was closer to my two brothers.  But he was damn proud of me when I passed the UPCAT.  He was, however, my constant.  Like in an equation, he was always there.  I miss him too.

My mom died last December from colon cancer.  It was the most painful ordeal I had to go through.  I don't want to write about it.  She's gone now.  I miss her so bad.

And so the cycle goes on.  Going by the records, I'm next.  I'm reminded of a James Taylor song:

And when I die, I don't want no coffin.
I've thought about it all too often.
Just strap me in behind the wheel,
And bury me with my automobile.

But I don't have a car, man.  And I won't fit inside my guitar case.  I know.  Those XXXL black plastic garbage bags will do.  Garbage in, garbage out.  Hope it's on a Thursday because that's garbage collection day here in our neighborhood.

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Before ready-made pants, there was your neighborhood "sastre" or tailor.  Ours was a small shop a few yards from our house called "Leoder's."  All my pants during my high school years were made there.  And since that was during the early 70's, they were mostly made out of double knit, gabardine, or ITM.  So you had to have them "perma-pressed".  Remember that one?  Shops had signs on them – "We do Perma Press."  And usually for P 3.00 per pair of pants.  For the uninitiated, it's a process where a really, really sharp crease is permanently pressed on your double knits. The sharper, the better. And voila!  Your pair is permanently ironed!  Levi's had a similar thing called "Sta-Press."  

My high school being UE Caloocan, all my trousers were blue.  Always blue.  "Come on, mom, can I get another color for Christmas?"  "Of course not, this way you can also use them for school."  Always blue.  And oh yes, my grade school years at St. Joseph Academy (La Consolacion School, later on) were of white t-shirts/polo and blue (sheesh) pants.  My tailor then was a small shop at A. Mabini called "Marmatic."  Charming name.  But yep, always blue.  And you have to buy clothing materials at Divisoria.  Always Divisoria.

1973. Levi Strauss opened shop in the Philippines.  Now available at Manila COD.  Had to pester my pop for a pair.  Good thing my brother joined in the chorus.  And so off we merrily went to Cubao.  And off my father's profane mouth went when he saw the price.  "P75 para sa isang maong?!?" Eh nung panahon namin mga kaminero lang ang naka-maong ah!"  What the hell is a "kaminero?"  Luckily for us though, there was a Levi's "factory seconds" bin for P35 a pair.  My first pair of Levi's at last, with a huge "SECOND" emblazoned on the label patch at the back.  Who cares?  I loved that pair. It was so hard and tough that it made a swishing sound when you walked by.  I mean, even if you fainted, you won't fall down. It will hold you up!  I had that with me untill well within my college days.

And then came Wrangler.  Theirs sold at P 90 per pair.  Danny one-upped me again when I saw him wearing one.  "My sister bought it for me," he said.  Damn!  Wish I had a sister like that.  Anyway, from then on, there came a flood of jeans with labels like "Wynner" and "Walk Tall" etc.  And the neighborhood tailors went ouf of business.

Oh yeah, during my HS senior year there came "Bang Bang" and "Faded Glory."  They were denim jeans flared to the max with a bullet proof metal plate at the back designed to save you in case you get shot in the ass.  I never wore one.

And I had to slip this in…Arnold Gamboa and his square pants.  Tee hee.  Henry Roxas wore one.

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Like most families on the east side of Metro Manila, our house went underwater last September 26. This was the worst natural disaster I have ever experienced directly. I am not going to write about that day though.

The earliest typhoon I could remember is “Dading” in 1964. I was four and I distinctly remember the howling of the wind the night it hit the city. I was in my bed and looking up the ceiling wondering what the noise was all about. I remember my parents getting real worried as the storm approached. There was no power for several days.

The many write-ups about Ondoy’s onlaught last Sept. 26 brought to mind another incident. Ondoy, they said, broke a record in terms of rainfall, surpassing a 1967 downpour that flooded most of the Greater Manila area, as it was called then. Yup, 1967. I remember our house getting flooded. We had to move via a stepping stone of dining chairs as the floodwater, no more than a foot high though, inundated the first floor of our house. My dad was furious as we just bought a new refrigerator then. Luckily though, it wasn’t damaged.

The all-time most destructive typhoon, in terms of wind strength, was Yoling in 1970. Code named internationally as “Patsy”, the typhoon struck mid-November, just a week after my lola died. On the way to Holy Cross Memorial Park the day after Yoling hit, there was nary a house with an intact roof along Baesa in Quezon City. It was utter devastation. Power was off for two maybe three weeks.

Almost forgot, the earthquake that toppled the Ruby Tower in Manila – August 2, 1968. I was 8 and in a daze when my mom woke me up 2 maybe 3 am with the whole house shaking. I wasn’t really scared, I was just figuring out what was happening. I remember the live TV feed from the felled buildings. My father, who’s never the religious guy, went to church with us in tow the Sunday after that.

Here’s something not most people remember. April 7, 1970, 1:34 pm, an intensity 7 earthquake hit the metropolis. It was terrifying in that it was the first earthquake I’ve experienced wide awake. My brother and I were watching an old Tagalog movie on Channel 5. When Van de Leon slapped Lolita Rodriguez and she fell to the floor, the tremor struck. Everything around us went shaking wildly and I held on to my brother like mad. Though damage and casualties were few, it prompted a movie producer to make a movie, “Intensity 70″, with Novo Bono Jr. and Sahlee Quizon, if I’m not mistaken.

There was a scene in “All the President’s Men” where Jason Robards playing Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post was brainstorming with his staff on what news items should be included in an issue of the paper. One quipped “31 days of continuous rains in the Phillipines attributed to the theft of the statue of the child Jesus.” Let me tell you something, Ondoy was a picnic compared to those 31 days in July-August of 1972.

The 30+ day downpour started, and I cannot forget this, on my birthday July 18. It was fairly overcast that morning and so right after classes, my brother treated me to a movie in Avenida. We saw John Wayne’s “The Green Berets.” That afternoon, when we left the theater, it started. It was the proverbial “cats and dogs” kind of rain. And there was no let-up until a month later. Imagine if that will happen today.

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If you were a kid during the 60’s, then you know Arcega’s, PanaCraft, and Toylandia.  Yup, the best toy stores in the Greater Manila (as Metro Manila was called then) area.  Since there was an Arcega’s branch at 11th Avenue in Grace Park, Caloocan, which was very near our place, you’d probably guess that this was where my Pop brought me during Christmas season.  Ah yes, toys.  A kid’s main reason for living, well, at least during our time.  And man, did we have some great toys! 

Back then, it was to hell with political correctness!  Boys had guns.  Girls had dolls.  Period.  And the guns then were the ones loaded with “perminante.”  Darn, I don’t know how it’s called.  Caps?  It was that rolled sheet of yellow or red paper dotted with a teeney bit of gunpowder that you put in a spool inside the toy gun.  Pulling the trigger makes the hammer hit the gunpowder and “pow”!  I remember once, I placed 5 maybe 6 layers of the perminante in the hammer and the entire plastic gun exploded in my hand.  I had minor burns and I had to endure my fingers getting dunked in blue ink.  Don’t ask me, that’s the first aid for burns then. 

Let’s see now, I remember I had those cowboy type six-shooters that were made of metal.  Then there’s the Japanese made space toy guns.  Oh yes, I had this 007 camera that turns into a pistol.  Cool.  And an even cooler James Bond attaché case a la “From Russia with Love” with a radio, a gun, a silencer, and a knife hidden in the side of the case.  Then there were the battery operated guns.  I had this 50 caliber machine gun run by 2 D cells.  It was really corny because all it did was make a noise.  I really envied Danny’s tommy gun.  It was battery operated but it was also loaded with perminante and it was heavy and it was the actual size thing!  Man alive!  It really looked real!  We all envied the guy.  This was the 60’s man.  Ain’t no Tokyo Marui yet.  Yes sir, if you were a boy, your toys were war toys.  My ninong gave me a remote control tank that really made my Christmas in 1968.  The thing rolls forward, backward, and the turret rotates and fires those suction tip plastic missiles.  I really had a blast with that one.   

Arcega’s had this really wily strategy of putting  adverts on page 2 of the Manila Times several weeks before Christmas.  And every day, I read and studied those ads and calculated the loot, I mean, the aginaldo I was expecting to get against the toy I wanted to buy.  Talk about learning arithmetic and budgeting and I was just in second grade then.  One particular toy I had in mind then was this roller coaster thing.  It sold for P35.00.  Large sum during those days.  No matter how much I tried to do the math, I knew I could never buy the darn thing.  Well, good ol’ Pop came to the rescue and bought it for me for Christmas. 

As for the other toy stores, I wasn’t able to go to Toylandia but I was able to check out PanaCraft in A. Mabini in Manila.  What did I buy?  A canister of “Crazy Foam.”  I saw it on Uncle Bob’s show on Channel 7.  He would feature different toys everyday and all were available at PanaCraft.  And yes, a kid just couldn’t resist it.  You had to eat the blasted foam.

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After a year's absence, I'm back again.  I uh, lost my password.  And the worst part is I forgot the email address I used for my vox account.  Sheesh, getting old is a pain.  Will post a new one later on. 

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