Saturday, September 28, 2013

interview with Dindi of ATP(Association of Transgenders in the Philippines)

Last Sunday, finally i get to hang out with Dindi for the whole day as she's aways busy with her work and time for her anak-anak. I bought her dinner, interview her and watched movie together, We watched Riddick-ulous. Things that matter most is Dindi's interview, she got all the right words, tons of vocabs, words of empowerment and very cheeky indeed, she used to study law and suppose to become a lawyer but dropped out halfway. But she mention that in order to change things here for transwomen she has to be in the system, and hopefully she's would find herself back on the track to achieve the goal for the trans community here in the Philippines eventhough theres a whole lot of work to do. 

S: Ok Dindi, can you introduce yourself a little bit?
D: My name is Dindin Tan, that's what my friends call me, my legal name as registered is Jerald Tan, so my Chinese name is Chan Yong Shun, i would like to be addressed as Dindi, thats what most ppl called me after college, i am a member of the Association of the Transgender of the Philippines, as one of the board members, i'm concurrently had the committee on the political legal and inter organization of the years so I'm one of the board members of the same time , so anything that had to do with grassroots mobilization, advocacy when it comes to the political sphere, thats mine, tarts under my watch. Thats under my purview.

S: Ok Ms.Dindi, when do you realize you're different? (roughly at what age?)
D: Ok i don't want to use the term different because were not different, when we say different we say connotatively negative, i don't want that…So when do i realize to be me?! I think that's a better question. Eversince i gain consciousness, ever since i was small, i believe i'm a woman. I believe that i was a girl. I never had second thoughts of myself as a woman, so i was having difficulties because coming from a very straight rigid chinese culture, Philippino Chinese culture, it was very hard to grasp the reality so like i was given boys toys, i have to be masculine, the expectations of the Chinese family is so rigid that you can't breathe, form then on, i didn't want to play with boys stuff because i believe i was a girl, so i use to play with girls toys, so ever since i was a child, I've come to know that i was already a girl. There was something wrong with what's between my legs hahahaha
It was like i was talking to myself, i was saying, maybe by some strike of faith god made a mistake that my being right now did not correspond to my biological sex. So ever since i was young i was already thinking about that and its hard because its hard to live a life that you wanted and to approximate, even if to approximate expectations of the people around you. It is frustrating because sometimes you already forced, i really would like to use the term 'force' , you're forced to follow the social expectation even if it goes against your will. So i would like to say that from the start, from even when i was young i was already a rebel. I rebel against the world. I said that this is ME! nobody has to dictate what clothes should i wear, who to love, what to like so the basics of your gender identity. But this constructs did not play in my mind so it was just like a personal result to manifest those things because when you're young you don't know those social constructs anyway but i follow the emotions but it was a struggle because when you're young you're powerless, you're under the jurisdiction of your parents, you cannot move according to your wishes, and it takes so much a portion of yourself because the development that you're really want does not go to that direction. You're given the opportunity to express yourself according to who you're really think you are and what you really think you are and so it become repressive, so going back to the question i realize that from the very beginning i never thought of myself as a boy, i really thought of myself as a girl. There never was a second thought because form the day that i have consciousness, it became natural, i like what a girl of my age are doing, i did not socialize that much with boys, i did not play boys stuff so i think those were the younger years. And those were the hardest years of how a transwoman like, because those developmental years is suppose to be those years that support is given to you but because of the patriarchal culture, the stigma and the dogmatic mindset of people, its a totally a different scenario.

S: Do you do something about it? (tell your parents/dress up secretly etc)
D: The family was disturbed, i would like to use the term 'disturbed' , there were disturbed with the behavior, because to them i was not exhibiting the behavior that is expected of a boy in the family so that was like a friction in the family. It was constant struggle for learning, not just for my parents and for immediate relatives but for me as a transwoman. I think my family came to notice that it was a totally different 'Jerald' ok lol. 

S: Did your parents accept you since you were young as a transgender?
D: Accepting…was the hardest part and i would not like to say that i was accepted early on. It was more of a tolerated I just believe that I'm here not because of them, I'm here to live a life of my own but because of that my father specifically leveled me as a very rebellious child but that did not deter me from pursuing my life life and to determine freely myself and my destiny, it was not acceptance, i think it would be tolerated, i went through a lot of cosmetic violence when i was a child, i got brutally beaten by my father because i think what adds insult to the injury is the fact that Philippines society is already very repressive when it comes to "gender deviation" or any behavior of that deviation of that matter.  What adds more insult to the injury is the fact that i was raised under a rigidly partriachal Chinese culture and it was really hard, i got beaten up because the expectation of the Chinese family is that since i w as the eldest from amongst all the other children i was expected to take on the lead of the family business eventually but that should not be the case because people cannot be dictated as to what to do in life when they grow up, its good if that person has the same interest as you have, but what if that person does not have the same interest as yo have? 
business, taking charge of my family business is not my cup of tea, so it was hard. I feel for them, i feel their expectation of me to lead the family business eventually according to them i feel them because they were looking for a formidable, masculine, child to become a leader because not only that we have business in the province but because i came form a political family so they said how can you become a gay in the picture if yore like that, it was so hurting because i was more competent than the rest of other grand children combined but because of i was, i was not given that opportunity to grow as a political person, so those are the predicaments that a transwoman living under that culture has to contempt with, and its not about the physical beating that stuck in your mind, its more of the emotional trauma that you went through, and where i am right now, in retrospect going back to those years iwas thinking, i was so brave if i was not that spiritually a fighter i would not have gone through those and were emerged as a victor. Now in my present state, i was thinking of the other trans-sisters who have to go through hardship because different people have different tolerance level in life and my life story is not their life story, maybe their life story is much more difficult than the one I've been through. So i feel for them, so whenever I'm alone I'm thinking "my god, i think i cannot compare my life to how they're living their life right now". Maybe they are under more repressive families, more violent families,…not even runaway from home, how about from being beaten to death or near to death. They are cases like that in the Philippines. Its because they're gays, its because they're lesbians, its because they're trans. Some families do that. and its so sorry because the level of understanding has to grow, tarts why whenever there's discussion of this nature i always feel for our other trans-sisters. Because again the childhood is the most important part of ones development of a person and its where the support has to come in. I was one of those who did not get much support form my family and i don't care, i was able to stand up. 

S: At what age do you take the hormone pills?
D: Taking hormones was an accident. And i would like to give credit to my trans-sisters. I have this trans-sister one of my closes friend in the province, before i knew i am a woman but i don't know there are pills to be taken in to enhance your femininity and i would like to give a credit to her because she was very very crucial in that aspect. She introduce the world of pills to me or HRT as you call it right now, she went to the Baranguay, the smallest unit in the Philippines, she went to the Barangay health clinic, she was asking from the nurse or pills so her mother could use it, she use her mother as a reason for her to get pills but she does not give the pills to her mother, she's using it. And when she was at home  she use to sleep with me because  i use to be with her most of the time when we were young and when she took her dress off i can see her boobs protruding, i thought "how come? how come yo have bigger boobs than i do? She call me 'Gaga' means stupid trans,…Gaga."  She said I'm taking pills, it came  from the Barangay health clinic. So we have to enhance your beauty she said because my dream of you is to become a beauty queen. So i wanted to be more feminine. So i said "Is that safe?" She said "I'm taking this for like 2 years now and its safe, no complication whatsoever", so i told her maybe i could try, this is one of those cheap pills that you don't get to buy in a major drugstore, its a contraceptive for women. So i took some of those and after like 3 weeks, my boobs became harder, and this was shock to me, my body was adjusting to the foreign, iw as laughing i was like telling her why is my boobs hardening? Is this normal? The areas around the breasts become harder than usual and after 1 more week it started to protrude, so i was telling her, Is this normal? IS this the same way that you've gone through ? She said Yes definitely, so iwas like OK, so let me take more of that, hahaha …and then i took more of it and it became bigger than usual and then i had sex with a male, and then i get more sensation when its being touched, when its being licked, how women feel the sensation, that what i felt, so that would reinforce me to take more of those pills, but i went a little higher, i purchase those really expensive hormones that are not being distributed in the local health clinics, so i went to the major drug store to buy those upon the referral of the older transwomen, so they told me, if you're really want a skin more beautiful than it is right now, if you're want bigger pelvic bones, if you want t one more feminine, then you have to take these, i took Diane, i took Premarine, Premarine was my staple hormone, i use those, so thats how i came to learn to use hormones. And you can't believe this it started when i was 14 years old, so very early. So her win the Philippiens, if you're taking pills earlier it will redefine your physiology. and i never had any surgery, i have aversion towards injections, i fear, even when i have medical examination, when get to see syringe, i feel like I'm going to die. So thats my fear. 

S: Do you feel the need to go for surgery? (SRS,FFS,Breast Augmentation?)
D: I have long term goal to someday, i was given money from my American benefactor, its already depleted, i bought something else but that was suppose for my surgery in Thailand but i will have to start from zero again but thats ok, I'm looking forward to having FFS, my face and my breasts but not the downstairs, whats in-between my legs is something that i not looking forward to have it cut. Not because i don't want to because i don't like major surgeries, I'm afraid. I scared i may not able to wake up 

S: If yes, When/Where you did your SRS/FFS/Breast Augmentation?)
D: Thailand is the first choice. In the Philippies if you're having your SRS here, it would be much more expensive, because its that mainstream how its done in Thailand. Maybe Thailand. 

S: How do you feel about religion view on transgender people? Like for example you have Catholic background?
D: Im from the ultra-conservative Catholic environment. 

S: Is there any mention inside the bible that say man cannot wear woman's clothes like in the Quran?
D: Im sorry for me, I'm not a practicing Catholic, I'm not a devout Catholic, but i would consider Catholic as my religion but i don't follow strictly their teachings because 1st i don't believe that all the contents of all the bible are true, there has to be a major shake-up in the Roman Catholic area, the direction right now is towards theological liberation, for the church to exist and to be more relevant at this very age has to accept people according to how they view themselves, ok thats number one. I think the religion does not rest with how strictly it is enforcing its teachings but how accommodating, how loving, your religion is in terms of including people of different sexual orientation and gender identity. I think i would ike to believe that one of the reasons why the church leader is not want to advocate for more inclusive society with respect of transpeople and other minorities for that matter is because there are also a lot of gay within the Catholic church so maybe its a psychological thing that when you're in a company of transwomen or gays, you tend to conceal more your identity, many priests right now in the news you can see many of them are implicated in crimes against children in the seminary for example, so tarts the irony of the church. It has to content with the challenge of disciplining the people in the church when it comes to sexual abuses committed by the clergy men themselves and how these clergymen view transwomen in society. So its very ironic. I think its a double standard because the Roman Catholic church seems to condone these sexual abuses, they still tend to be very close-minded about people who have different sexual orientation. I think thats one of the worst realities that the Roman Catholic church has to really improve on. Otherwise they will lose more followers. Remember the bloodline of any religion is the people and if they lose more people right now in fact at this rate, they're losing more people than the islamic religion so tarts pretty much alarming. In the Philippines coming from Roman Catholic environment that again in itself is a big challenge for transwomen. Base on the fact that the church are not open about these SOGI(Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity) thing, so that was a major obstacle for the cause.

S: How do you feel about your government and its treatment on transgender people?
D: For quite so long now, we have pushed for a more inclusive development agenda that would explicitly enjoined the participation of the LGBT community, not just trans people, not just us, for the LGBT community in general. In my lifetime for that I can speak, with so many administration that come and go, we are still awaiting for a leadership that would spell the difference between mere tokenism and real action. Its different when you say you are pro-LGBT to doing good for the LGBT community. There is more talk than action. With the present administration right now of president Aquino, we have lobbied so forcefully in terms of the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill, the Gender Recognition Bill, all of these bills are still pending in congress. In the Philippines political culture, even if you have already lobbied these congress to get passed, the congressmen would just sit on these bills and they would not do anything about it. They would just discuss it int he public committee hearing but up to that point only. So its like watering down the bill. In the Philippines unless the president calls on these members of congress to certify that this Bill is urgent, then it would not push through. So the president has to command the members of congress, tell them that you have to pass this bill because i certify this as urgent. Until now the president is numb on our pending legislation  in congress so i think it would take a lot of lobby for us to do to really tap the shoulder of the person in charge on the top and it would take a lot of convincing to do. Again i would like to say that theres a difference between mere tokenism and real action. After everything is said and done, much more is suppose to be done then being said. Thats what I'm waiting for right now.

S: What do you know about human rights? Is it important for transgender people?
D: We cannot separate the concept of human rights to transsexual rights or to LGBT rights because wether you're gay,lesbian,transgender, bisexual, you're human, then by grace of you're being a human inherently you hold the right to live. To self determine, to all other universally accepted precepts of human rights. So regardless of your race, color, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or gender identity, you have to be accorded equal treatment by any government at any place in the world. That is very basic, that is universally respected but the problem is not all government respect that. But i think before going to frame this debate, yo have to tell this government that they should not look at other consideration wether this human is from Syria? is form Malaysia? from the Philippines? or wether this human is economically privilege or this human is economically under privilege or wether this person is black or white, its more on the human being persona that we have to base and accord him or her the same equal rights as what we would like our rights to be exercised, so we cannot at all separate the discussion of human rights and to get away from transsexual rights. Because LGBT rights are human rights. And they are inherent rights. The government did not give us that rights, its by virtue of our existence that we have those rights. So we don't need the adestation of other people to access those rights. Because they too did not need the edestation. They're excersicing it freely, we should also be doing the same.  

S: What do you think of Yogyakarta principles? 
D: The Yogyakarta principles of which the Philippines is not the signatory unfortunately haha, this is the operational framework by which the universal recognition in human rights is being operated upon when it comes to SOGI discussion, so the Yogyakarta principles lays down the framework on how to deal with abuses  when it comes to SOGI and here in the Philippines, is not one of the signatory unfortunately, its hard to foretell the state and any of its organ to abide by the Joyjyakarta principles, by the virtue of the fact that its not part of the signatory. But even so the Jyogjyakarta principle is just an operational framework we still have to contain an adhere to the overarching principle of the universality of human experience and human rights. So even without the Jyokjyakarta principles we have to be treated equally based not eh universally accepted precepts of human rights with or without the Jyogjyakarta principles. Because then again the Jyogjyakarta principles is just a political document in support of the United Nation contention with regard to respecting Universal Human Rights. So even with absence of the Jyogjyakart principles, people not just their government should treat everyone accordingly. I think the Jyogjyakarta principle just came into cause and effect to reinforce the need to accord equal treatment when it comes to SOGI cases. But again i would like to see the Philippines being an active player in terms of localizing, the Jyogjyakarta principles in terms of the day to day experience of the LGBT people in the Philippines. And i think its one of the cause and avenues which the LGBT people could lobby for them to be one of the signatory of the Jyogjyakarta principles and think its not too late. The long term goal right now of the LGBT community whenever we tend to sit down with LGBT leaders like us is to insert and forcefully mainstream 'The Pink Agenda', the call it 'The Pink Agenda'. The LGBT Agenda, ok that show we term it. So there has to be an administration that would be out in the open vocally telling its support for the LGBT. Were still looking forward to that scenario in the future, maybe we can find more LGBT friendly president in the future? But i think the more practical political discourse right now the trend in the Philippines just so you know since we cannot get that much support from the national level because its really hard knowing the political dynamics, what we do is we start from the grassroots. So we start with the local leaders from the provinces, so the provinces is the of a higher level than the municipal in than the cities, so we tend to mobilize our leaders in the cities and in the provinces to cast local audiences and legislations pertaining to SOGI rights like Anti-discrimination ordinance and anything in line with that. We're happy that we're making some inroads right now, we have Cebu city, Bacolod city, We have Quezon city, which is where we are right now and in the works were looking forward to having an Anti-Discrimination ordinance passed in the city of Baggio in Northern Luzon, so its in the works right now. We're just looking for a friendly council person to sponsor the bill. But in the works, So doing this, were trying to make ripples down the local level and if we began to make ripples and visible become waves, we shake the foundation of the national structure then i think tis the better way to do it. The problem that we're looking at right now is that even we have passed the LGBT-friendly ordinances like the Anti-discrimination bill, again its more on paper than in equality, why do we say that? Even we have that the ordinance of this nature, its not widely communicated to the other LGBT community, so most of our brothers and sisters did not know that these ordinances really exists. So incase there are violations, they don't know the proper regress system thats the only thing we are looking at. No 2, there are no implementing rules and regulations in place to operationalize this tasks legislation. Those are the hardships were facing right now in the local level.   

S: Do you think its important for transgender people to get together in a group/form a group to help the community and each other?
D: It proceeds from the fact that any social group to formally an effectively, an efficiently lobby its cause, it has to be strong as a group. There is no better way, to formally advance the advocacy than to be one and united. If you're want to do it individually then i don't think we can make that much of an impact. So with any other non-government organizations, we have learn form other experience from other NGOs, people's organization, and all other non-profit organizations, we learning from them and we have come to believe  that when the group is more organize than doing it on individual basis, we are better. In terms of advancing our interests. So yes definitely, right now in our experience in the Asscociation of Trangender in the Philippines hopes to consolidate all the efforts of all the other transmen and transwomen in the Philippines although there maybe some frictions to that, were still hopeful in the future we could all sit down together, and discuss our agenda, set aside our differences and I'm so happy that as of this moment, as of this late, we are doing some significant development, we just have to look our away to the labyrinth of negotiating with other trans-sisters. But because we believe that we have to include all, because this is not just our game, its everybody's game so thats it. We're at ATP are hopeful that it will be realized. 

S: What is Transgender 101 ?
D: Ok, Trans 101 gets to talk about our experience, the trans lifestyle, wether transmen or transwomen, we get to orient  people, how we live, who we are and the social constructs that we carry in regards to us being transpeople, transwomen in our case. So it speaks of the rudiments, the foundations of how we view ourselves, so basically it talks about the SOGI experience. Sexual orientation & gender identity, the difference between these 2, things like that. And we do that in ATP

S: Do you include SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) and Yogyakarta Principle in your advocacy?
D: That's answered. Yes, because we would like to highlight the discussions on SOGI because its who we are, its where the discussion starts before any other discussion about our rights, about our privileges, about our lifestyle, its the basic thing that we have to start with. 

S: Do you think there will be change in the society towards transgender people in this country?
D: I'm hopeful, im expecting for the worst and hoping for the best. How do we say that? Expecting for the worst, because there will be challenges, definitely there will be struggles along the way, and its just that in any given enterprise or organizations, you have to channel in your positive things, your strengths, if you re going to do it alone, you would be depleted, you will feel exhausted. You have to connect with other transisters and pull in your efforts altogether so you can confront the challenge more formidably than doing it all by yourself. So i think it would be better and yes I'm hopeful, there will be struggles align the way but wight he development were having right now, were hoping for the best to come. And again i always tell our mother Kate Montycarlos who's our chairperson, "Mother, the best is yet to come. " Again, not all difficulties come with difficulties there will be successes and we will be success if it comes sooner or later. And i think it will be the fruit of our labor. But i would like to see it comes earlier hahaha you know we get funding, we get support, we get manpower, sometimes without staffing you tend to lose directions. What eta the energy from people in the advocacy is the lack of institutional logistics like for example like financing, like staffing, like how you motivate yourself, i mean i and mother Kate cannot do it alone, other transisters have to come out in the open, those who are talented, those who are competent, and pull in their efforts also. Sometimes its hard because they don't have the luxury of time. They have to earn a living for themselves. And inmost case in the Philippines, sometimes most of them work for their families, So thats is one of the problem. 

S: What are the struggle as a transwomen in this country?
D: Being a transwomen in itself is already a struggle (LoL), ..ok, what makes it complicated and complex, are the people around us, i mean you know what my logic alone, that i would like to say being a transwoman is not that complicated, what makes it more struggling, more complex are the people around you and the discrimination part, runs the whole gamut of the trans life. I think that's the challenge. Its not more on us, its more on 'them' hahahaha, so i think they should be the one, to be treated psychologically hahahhahaa, right? because they're the ones having problem with us.

S: What is Bakla? and the relationship with the transwomen here?
D: Bakla, is very culture in the philippines, there is no a dichotomy, the dichotomy is to follow Philippines culture experience, as against the western experience, What do you mean by that, when do we say Philippine culture experience refer to all people who dress differently than they do, who act any different than they do, who like to have the relation of the same sex other than they do, they would label them as Bakla. So that's the Philippine culture experience. The western cultural influence is more of a diversified area, we have strict lesbian,strict gays, stricly trans, strictly bi-s. And the Philippines experience, one lump some hahahahahaha. So when you're trans, you're gay, you're Bakla, hahahahaa ok so thats it. So its more on culture. 

S: What do you hope to achieve for yourself & the rest of the transcommunity in this country?
D: Very good, i think thats the best question of the day. For me because its very relational, Ive always been a believer, that somebody has to take on the lead, because not all of us are strong. Somebody strong have to come out in the open and take on the lead. Such as ….us. And i believe that for me the best to carry the advocacy forward and to help Mother Kate is to be a lawyer. I'm a frustrated lawyer, i would like to see myself contributing more to the advocacy not just in the Philippine level but also on Interntional level by focusing more on the international human rights and any gender based violence not just in this country but also abroad, i would like to specialize on those. So if given the chance in the future i would like to finish my law studies and concentrate on international human rights and litigating phases for gender advocacy , yea so thats my dream. 

For the trans community i would like to see a trans sister in congress hahaha to be a major player in the political playing field , because here in the country, the only way to break the barrier is to be part of the institution . And the bat way for me as i say from a political viewpoint, the bat way to advance advocacy is to have a major stake in the political pie, and i would like to see a trans sister in congress, a trans sister becoming a senator, and who knows maybe a trans sister who may become the president, why not, yeah ..its a work in progress so those are my hopes for the trans community.
And because if those people are there, empowerment on a larger basis will follow, because you hold policy, direction, you can change legislation  that are anti-LGBT, so we put key people in the key position and the rest will follow. Because if we don't have a voice there inside the institution, were nothing…right? So it has to be from the inside. You have to infiltrate the inside to be able to have a better impact. A better voice. To have a better platform, so that's how i see it. 

S:Any message or last words? Anyting youw ant to add on?
D: I would like to say, It's working, would like to say lastly that even with the challenges that we face, i think theres not much of a difference that the Trans people in the Philippines face, that the Transwomen int eh Malaysia face, or in the Indonesia or in the SIngapore face, we have the same experiences, same common platform, same struggles, although different faces? different viewpoints, different angles,  but when you go down the line, the substance is one in the same, the culture of trans people across all countries  is a culture that we share altogether and i would like to see ourselves being key players more not just in our own country but also in terms of helping our trans brothers and trans sisters in repressive regime like Cambodia for example, Vietnam for example, China for example, these countries are socialists or communists is more difficult to live as a transwomen. So i don't like to complain that in the Philippines were having a hard time. If to compare our experiences to our trans sisters in country like China for example, where you will be detained because of different political ideology and your belief. I think there's much more to do and there's no better way to help each other than to stand up, so after the struggle is done in our own country we have to level up and show our force in the international level. Thats my hope for the international community.

S: I think thats related to mdm.Kate's idea of forming a South East Asean trans group
Dindi: A caucus? 
S: Yea
Dindi: A transgender caucus? 
S: So we can help each other..
D: we can help each other pressuring our state to be more liberal, if not liberal at least open to the idea that  Hey!, What the Eff, we're here, there's no turning back, right? That's it. And thank you so much, because these studies, this research, this exchange program that you're into right now 
gives us an insight into how the lives of trans people in the certain country.. 
S: I should thank you because i can share this with my trans sisters in my country..
D: And its a good thing because when you're documenting, theres something to refer to 
S: It should be archived, because it helps the future transwomen the younger ones...
D: Were not doing this for ourselves, that is correct, were doing this for the generation to come. Because were making their life better. The thing of the other generation, the younger generation is missing is that were just doing this for ourselves. No, were not doing this for ourselves. Were doing this for those people who will come after us
S: Exactly, the anak-anak will do to their anak-anak an so on
Dindi: Yes, its for them, we don't want them to experience the experience that we have, i think that's it. And if we have more allies, we will become stronger and we stand as one even with our differences, again whenever i get to talk to other trans sisters coming form different  organizations, "The organization that were coming from, that doesn't define us totally, what defines us is our experience as transpeople. The organization is only part of who you are, its not the totality of who you are. So whenever i get to meet them i always tell them, Sis! the problem that we face, the differences should not be the obstacle to our understanding, because i always tell them sisters, We are bigger than our problem. And they realized that yes, thats how it should be conducted, but i also hope that not only me but also the other trans sisters will realized that. The organizations are just labels. and even without an organization we can be friends right, it should not be obstacle to our other relationship, THAT'S ALL! hahaha


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