MANILA, Philippines – When we look for inspiration, we often search for something beautiful and sublime.
What we later discover is that there is even deeper inspiration to be derived from the ugliest and the vilest.
As an aspiring writer, I was told by an iconic poet: To be a relevant writer, one must first experience pain, heartbreak, indignation, oppression.
Neil Gaiman says: “Sometimes you wake up, sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes when you fall, you fly.”
And from Paulo Coelho: “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
And where did Van Gogh get his starry inspiration? “I dream my painting and I paint my dream.”
Businessmen don’t just get inspired by the bottom line. Richard Branson once said he was inspired by Steve Jobs’ lines: “The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” Branson adds that he is inspired by “people who stop at nothing to make a positive difference to other people’s lives.”
As Philippine Star celebrates its 31st year, we ask achievers in government, business, art, culture, cuisine and fashion: Who inspires you? What inspires you?
Their answers — in the next six Lifestyle sections L to Q — are quite inspiring.
Rodrigo R. Duterte
I would just simply answer, I serve the people. The Filipino people inspire me to serve my country well. Allow me to plagiarize a famous saying — I could even say it’s a prayer, actually. I forgot the name of the author, though it’s not anonymous. And it goes: “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.”
My work has brought me to many of our poorest communities and I have met so many inspiring people who have faced tremendous struggles but have achieved many of their dreams and aspirations. They have shown us that there is hope amid the most difficult barriers and the most painful wounds. This is the reason why our office launched “Istorya Ng Pag-Asa.” It is our chance to showcase the stories of hope of ordinary people who have done extraordinary things.
Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr.
My life has been inspired by three people, who have come and gone and left me their imprints.
First and foremost, my wife Betty, who continues to inspire me, 23 years after she passed away. I draw wisdom from her life of strong conviction and courage. I am still guided by these and all our shared experiences.
The second is my father, who taught me to treat everybody equally and fairly regardless of who they are in the totem pole of society.
The third is my Uncle Pio, who taught me early on the value of hard work such that I left the comfort of his Forbes Park home at an early age to work as a newspaper copy boy and reporter while living at the YMCA youth center.
I am inspired by the beauty and bounty of nature, by the vast wilderness of our forests, by the pristine waters surrounding our archipelago. I am inspired by the color and richness of the culture of our indigenous peoples.
The memory and legacy of my father inspire me.
My biggest inspirations in life are my mother and maternal grandmother. Both of them showed me by example how to lead an empowered life as a woman. They were both hardworking and persevering. I am an empowered woman because I was raised by empowered women.
I’m inspired by our creative and talented people who use their imagination to bring about art or new discoveries or new ways of thinking. I’m also inspired right now by our brave soldiers fighting far from home in Marawi, facing uncertain conditions and uncertain fates.
The people that inspire me the most are our soldiers that have been sacrificing their lives for all of us to live freely and peacefully. What happened in Marawi has made me realize the sad reality that there are people out there that want to take away the very freedom we are enjoying today and even threatening our very existence by taking over our cities and territories. It’s our very own men and women in uniform that are shedding their own blood and giving up their lives for us to live a life of freedom and peace. What greater sacrifice is there than to give up your life for your country and your people. It is they who constantly inspire me.
I draw inspiration from my family. My kids are my energizers; my parents and siblings are my force fields. My husband, the family’s light saber — light and saver.
Two people in my life inspire me. My father, who has spent a lifetime serving the people of Makati. I grew up knowing that he would do anything, even give up everything in the name of public service. It took me years to fully understand why and now that I am mayor, I realize that his shoes are beyond too large to fill. Philippine politics has misjudged Jojo Binay but in my eyes, he loved Makati and our people above all.
Second, my daughter Martina. I see the world through her eyes and discover that there is much hope, opportunity and beauty around us. She grounds me, she prevents me from being jaded. She is my constant reminder that I have a life that is no less rewarding outside the four walls of my office. With her, I am — simply and happily — Mom.
I am inspired by people who are passionate about a cause or advocacy, who are willing to risk all to see these through to fruition, and who never once ask the question, “What’s in it for me?”
Pope Francis because of his message of mercy, compassion and attention to the less fortunate resonates with me. It’s a reminder and a challenge to go against the grain, especially in today’s political climate.
My service to the people as mayor of Ormoc inspires me. When I see the people happy with my policies, when I see the people being helped with their needs and when they feel that they are being taken care of, these inspire me to do better, work harder and make beautiful things happen for the people I am mandated to serve.
I also get inspired when I work with good and intelligent people. Efficiency inspires me.
Happy people inspire me. I just came from Sitio Panhugan in Brgy. Sherwood for the graduation of farmers after a four-month training period that was rolled out to enhance their productivity and earning potential. Their joy was palpable — bright, toothy smiles, healthy sun-kissed skin, and in one corner an array of robust and abundant produce that showcased not only the hidden wealth of the land but also the work of their hands. What a blessing! I was among people who lived simply, their joys (and way of life) refreshingly simple, their spirit innately generous. They opened the festivity by dancing the curacha, there was a bit of singing, the usual requisite speeches, we had many laughs together as the day progressed. There we all were, sweating under the sun under this big makeshift tent as we shared stories, plans, dreams. Then we all sat down together for a meal in celebration of all that the day meant, to them as farmers, especially. I carried home with me a feeling of freedom and inspiration, a renewed sense of purpose — my heart was full, as I was once again reminded of the joys of living simply and how little we really need to be (and stay!) truly happy.
Christopher De Venecia
What inspires me is the possibility of learning more about the human capacity to lead and to make decisions collectively for the good of the people. There’s so much pedagogy and schools of thought, not to mention best practices from thought leaders around the globe, that can transform the way we think and do things. What we need are new solutions and opportunities to galvanize the millennial mind to disrupt systems and establishments and have a stake in ushering in authentic, genuine and sustainable change.
Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan
The resilient, hardworking and perservering Filipino inspires me.
The search for truth and what is just.
Three words: Shark, Stingray and Stonefish.
The Word of God inspires me to set the example of humility, self-sacrifice and love for all. I am inspired to do my best as a public servant for my countrymen because I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Filipino nation for supporting me in whatever I do. I am also inspired by my family, especially Jinkee and our children, to be the best husband and father I can be, with God’s grace. Whenever I step into the ring, I leave my fate in God’s hands and whatever happens, it will be for His great glory; there is no more powerful inspiration than God to show us the way to live a life of righteousness, compassion and love. God is all-forgiving and all-loving, as we all should be.
Soccoro C. Ramos
When I was very young, our family had very little. I had to start working when I was five years old so I would have enough money to buy school supplies and have a little baon for ice cream. I think it was being poor that inspired me the most. Wanting to finish school. Dreaming of a better life. And wanting to get the best education possible for my children and grandchildren. Those were the things that inspired me to work hard and never, ever quit. I also thought it was important to have some ice cream once in a while.
John Gokongwei Jr.
I am inspired by the idea of being able to help in the progress of the country and the company. And of being able to create a modern organization to be able to compete in the world.
Bienvenido Tantoco Sr.
What inspires me the most is my family. My hunger to give them the best quality of life, education and growth opportunities is the main reason why I tried my best to be successful in my work. I am very proud of my children. I feel that each of them in their own unique way turned out very well. I feel very lucky to be bonding and also witnessing the growth of not only my grandchildren but also my great-grandchildren. I am happy with how four generations of Tantocos are all supporting, helping, encouraging and celebrating with each other. I hope that they will always uphold our family’s values, and also continue the legacy that Glecy and I started and bequeathed to them.
My parents, because it was they who taught me the virtues I have in business.
The rising poverty in the Philippines inspires me to do more.
Seeing the smiles and feeling the warm welcome of ordinary folk and farmers in communities we help greatly inspires me. Being embraced by strangers whose lives we have touched and changed for good is, for me, the greatest feeling in the world. It drives me to do more for our countrymen.
Manny Villar Jr.
I am lucky to be surrounded by amazing people who have inspired me. Nanay Curing who taught me that perseverance and hard work are important in making my dreams come true. My wife Cynthia who shared in my hopes and aspirations. My children — Paolo, Mark and Camille — who remind me why I continue to dream.
I’m inspired by many people I’ve come across in my life — my family, my friends, people I’ve worked with, people I’ve met, and people I’ve read about. They touched my life in different ways.
Fernando Zobel De Ayala, Jaime Augusto Zobel De Ayala
There have been many sources of inspiration at different points in our lives. However, in recent months, the brave men and women of our armed forces have truly moved and inspired us. From the intense training they undergo, to the great risks they face daily on the frontlines — at times even making the ultimate sacrifice — our servicemen and women certainly have our utmost respect and full support. We wish our soldiers well as they fight for our nation’s peace and freedom. We join the rest of our countrymen in thanking them for their courage, patriotism and selflessness.
My family inspires me — my wife Jay, my kids Hannah and Jacob, my parents and siblings. Their unconditional love and support, their inspiring example of hard work and humility.
I want to be part of the set of people who help the country get out of poverty, develop economically and culturally and be part of the affluent, peaceful world. Filipinos can be global managers/ engineers/professionals. I hope this can be done without violence.
Travel inspires me the most. Even in this digital age, when we can see the world in photos, there is still nothing that can replace the privilege of seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, experiencing and discovering another culture, a new perspective, and different worlds.
The person that inspires me the most is my now-96-year-old Lolo Benny. He is a living example of how to live meaningfully, and authentically in an increasingly upside-down world. It’s so easy to be discouraged, to inadvertently and unconsciously become cynical and negative; to be driven by pride, greed and envy. I feel lucky to have a lolo who is a constant reminder to always be self aware; and not to succumb to the relentless pressures to sell out on our values, and to drift from who we are and what we are meant to do. My Lolo inspires me because he is humble. Up to this day, he does not feel like he has accomplished anything extraordinary. He also feels that, as much as he knows, there is still so much for him to learn. He still has this huge thirst for learning. He inspires me because of the way he constantly pays homage to his roots. He constantly talks about his parents, especially his mother. He regularly visits Malolos, Bulacan and he vividly describes with gratitude the very humble home that he grew up in, the church where he attended Mass, the public school that gave him his education; he also speaks with great pride about the soul, values and history of his home town. He inspires me because of the way he leads, encourages, empowers and genuinely cares for people. On the one hand, he is very generous and compassionate. On the other hand, he inspires people to transcend their limitation and devote themselves totally to a cause and purpose that is larger than themselves. He builds you into a lean, mean, fighting marine; capable and willing to take on the largest challenges and the hardest battles.
The periods of my life that inspire me most are when I am tackling a huge challenge, striving to accomplish goals that others thought were impossible, alongside a great and amazing team. Collectively, we become a David that can take on any Goliath that comes our way.
Stories of people who succeed in life who started from humble beginnings, and made it big despite adversities and challenges. They further prove that it is possible to be successful if one is passionate in what they are doing.
A few weeks ago, we were in Davao for the groundbreaking of a housing project, and people came up to us, just to thank us for helping out. It’s been like that on many occasions. Whether we’re launching a new expressway or visiting a project site, people we’ve never met say thank you for the jobs we’ve created. Some approach us for help, but so many just want to talk. It’s that kind of thing that really moves you to act and do more.
I share with many a vision of a more developed, prosperous, peaceful Philippines and a better future for all Filipinos. Our country is beautiful. We are rich in natural resources. We have capable, hard-working, resilient people. We only need to provide opportunities for them to live their best lives! This is what we’re hoping to help achieve at San Miguel.
By developing industries that are key to our country’s growth and at the same time working to address critical social issues, we’re hoping to create a positive impact that can be felt by all Filipinos, every day.
My travels expose me to innovative architecture and engineering, thus encouraging me to try to think beyond the confines of my knowledge of things. Our country’s population is fairly young, compared to other developed countries, with seemingly buoyant potentials. We should focus on what we can be, rather than what we are not. Thus by thinking outside the box, by opening ourselves to new ideas, this driving thought is in itself an inspiration. I believe that if we set our minds to it, some things can become better, if not great.
Over the years my sources of inspiration have changed. Now, I’m inspired by my family. I hope to continue my parents’ legacy and work towards growing the family business in the various industries that we participate in. I’m challenged by my brothers to be better and give my children the same opportunities that our parents gave us. However, I could not possibly achieve these goals without the support of Marielle, my wife, and my family. It’s a virtuous cycle.
Currently what inspires me is running. I just finished two back-to-back 21-kilometer half-marathons, and participated at the San Francisco Marathon last week. What inspires me is how we can achieve anything we put our mind and energy into, which comes in handy when faced with life’s adversities. Hopefully, a full marathon run will be in the plan soon.
Awesomeness is inspirational. It can come from nature or from man, big or small, the good , and even evil. Thunder, tsunami in its fearsome majesty, the evolution of a butterfly, even the decay of nature.
The destruction of war and other horrors can make us recoil, and still inspire art, poetry, or technical innovation. The Asian concept of yin and yang demonstrates itself here where nothing is completely good or evil, and everything is both creative and destructive, existing as two sides of the same nature.
Acts of love or sacrifice , or of survival, great or small, are common sources of inspiration.
Beauty of course inspires, whether it is in designs of architecture like great constructions, or just a beautiful person — whether physically or in character.
Recent sources of inspiration for me include stories of Steve Jobs, both God’s power and man’s reaction in the Yolanda storm event, books like From Zero to One, some of our Filipino revolutionary heroes, wonderful buildings I see in my travels, a good lecture from our church pastor, an act of care from the household help, a worm and two ants I watched struggling against each other.
I try to develop an awareness and appreciation of everything, and try to incorporate what is inspiring into a part of my work and play, and to try to inspire others in turn.
I am inspired by Deng Xiaoping, the great leader of China who boldly changed China, and in so doing, changed the world most profoundly. By opening the largest nation to the rest of the world, he unleashed an economic engine that has been as impactful as the Industrial Revolution. It has brought about extraordinary economic growth not only in China, but in many other regions of the world and shifted the center of economic gravity from the West to the East. Without a doubt, Deng Xiaoping will be regarded as one of the most significant historical figures of the last century.
My mother Elizabeth who is an “anything goes” person and my mother-in-law Amparo who is also an “anything goes” person.
I continue to be inspired by my beloved mother (Glecy Tantoco) who left us a legacy for generations to come. She taught us the value of hard work, customer service and bringing the best of the world to the Filipinos.
Happiness! Christmas, children, birthday cakes and truly positive, talented and passionate people who help bring as much joy as possible into this world.
My son, Tristan. He inspires me to work harder so I can give him the same opportunities my parents worked so hard to give me. He inspires me to be a better person every day so that I can be a good example for him.
Individuals who act with courage and strong conviction driven by their love and passion — for family; for their life pursuits; for their beliefs; even to die for their country.
Reading inspires me, because it allows me to continue learning and evolving. Whether it’s learning about different ways to look at the world economy from Thomas Friedman, being empowered as a leader by the likes of Sheryl Sandberg, or just being entertained by Jojo Moyes and Sophie Kinsella, every book or story I read makes me see the world from a unique perspective.
My passion has always been the arts, not just theater, not just film, TV, but also music, dance, literature and the visual arts. That’s what has been running through my veins all these years and I cannot run away from this challenge even if people say I’m too old or that it will kill me. Pablo Picasso, Andrew Wyeth, Robert Frost and other great artists continued in their artistic pursuits until death. ’Til death do us art. Emotionally and intellectually, I have prepared myself for this all my life. Energy, I will get it from seeing young talents from every corner of the country bloom and perform as well as supportive people who share my passion for arts and culture.
Bea Zobel Jr.
My children. I love learning from them and sharing in their crazy passions and interests. I tried to show them as much of the world as I could while they were growing up and now they are showing me their worlds.
Believe it or not, I am most inspired when I see groups of young Filipinos eager to rediscover our past. I meet a lot of them at seminars and conferences on Philippine history, culture and heritage; they’re attentive, inquisitive, eager to reconnect with our history. They want to unravel the past so they can figure out the present and chart a brighter future for this country. Who knows, there may be another Rizal, Bonifacio, A. Luna and Mabini among them.
I am inspired by my family. My husband and children. My parents. My siblings. And this inspiration comes from our shared love, trust, loyalty, friendship, belief and support for each other. I think that this kind of inspiration comes also from an extension to a small circle of close friends and those I consider as my second family. Of course, I cannot deny that I am also inspired by my strong passion for the arts and for dance in particular. And the people that share this kind of dedication and love for dance also give me constant strength and inspiration.
Jaime Ponce De Leon
Noble deeds inspire me. When people do extraordinary deeds to help people selflessly, it is truly inspiring.
My son, Richard. If I raise him to know right from wrong, be a Godly man, then that would be my greatest achievement in life. He inspires me to be a better man, a good role model.
I am inspired by the life of my mother, Purita Kalaw-Ledesma, who, despite her many achievements, remained humble throughout her life. Her faith gave her the grace to forgive and thus lead a life of peace and serenity.
Growing up, I tended to emulate women who made it to the top of their careers. But at this age, I find that the one person whom I truly look up to in terms of providing the cornerstone for character-building is my maternal grandmother.
She was Juanita McIlvain, born from a mixed genetic strain of Spanish, Irish and American Indian from the Black Foot Tribe of Montana, and a speck of Filipino. She hailed from Zamboanga City and her formal education ended at the fourth grade.
Because of her, I am a granddaughter of President Manuel A. Roxas.
I grew up with Lola Juanita because she lived in our home. I love her most for the stories she told us — rich, poignant and courageous, especially through the challenges of World War II.
She fed me, bathed me, and literally spoon-fed me, my two other siblings, and my cousins, until I was about seven years old. Looking back now, it must have been that tremendous post-war trauma of having had to live in the direst of circumstances that compelled her to personally supervise and ensure that her grandchildren would never want for basic provisions ever again.
She faced more significant challenges, though. She and her three children lived near Malacañang Palace. But that only meant that they could no longer access my grandfather as easily as they did before he became president.
My mother and her siblings all graduated with honors from the University of the Philippines and the Ateneo. They pursued career paths that inspired me. All of this was because they had a mother who, entirely on her own merit, provided the backbone of uprightness and perseverance mainly through constant prayer and ceaseless guidance — a pattern for living that so naturally imbued my siblings, cousins and me as adults.
I consider these values among my best possessions.
I am always inspired by my mother and my sister, by their positive energy and open-mindedness, and how they fully embrace life and its challenges.
I am inspired by Yayoi Kusama, the artistic genius who used her unique style of painting, sculpture, installations, mirrored rooms, poetry, novels, film and music to bring joy to a world full of pain, confusion and immense grief. I will never forget the first time I entered her mirror room, “Fireflies on the Water,” and looked into her installation, “Ladder to Heaven.” I was transported to heaven.
Based on audience counts of cultural institutions and art projects, there is a great increase in the number of young people and families who greatly appreciate the arts and culture of our country. It inspires me that we have an art-going public after more than 25 years of collective efforts in art education.
Singing along to Bruno Mars as I take on the treadmill usually does the trick.
My inspiration comes from within myself: my head, my heart, my guts.
My brother Salvador was my first influence. He was a painter and 13 years ang difference namin. I was fascinated whenever I watched him draw.
My friends inspire me. Because they come from all walks of life, they are my window to the world.
When you have the passion to create and you are blessed with the talent to create you can’t but create because it is like breathing, it is second nature and vital.
Having said that, one local artist who inspires me the most is National Artist Napoleon Abueva for his dedication, hard work, innovative and modern approaches to sculpture.
My family is also a big inspiration (thus the series of sculptures I have created in tribute to them). Taiwanese sculptor Ju Ming, for his originality and building the 11-hectare sculpture garden with buildings that house his indoor artworks and the other great artists he collected: Henry Moore, Jean Arp, Piet Mondrian and Dale Chihuly.
Goddess mythology and archetypal iconography.
Sunsets at Manila Bay. Clouds.
I am inspired by the lives of the people I see around me.
Inspiration can be induced. I gain momentum by immersing myself in the work. From my experience, momentum is more important than the initial spark.
Cesare A.X. Syjuco
My talent. I am constantly amazed at what it can do, and that always gives me a rush. It’s my drug.
I am inspired by the great musical innovators of our time: Igor Stravinsky, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Karlheinz Stockhausen who made possible what those before them thought unmanageable. I deem to follow in their footsteps.
Everything — from the deepest pressures in life, to the little things that make you smile.
Inspiration ko ang asawa ko at mga anak ko, at pati na rin ang mga Pilipino — gusto ko gumawa ng bagay ano pa man siya, basta dapat masaya ako, di ako nang-aapak o nang-aagrabyado ng iba. At iniisip ko magiging masaya at proud ’yung mga taong importante sa akin.
Jorge Luis Borges. Alien. Thomas Pynchon. Old anatomy books, mysterious diseases. Bizarre Magazine. Franz Kafka. Dead Snow. Taxidermia. Haruki Murakami. Loud guitars on vinyl wafting out of those vintage JBL 4312 speakers and a Marantz 2325 receiver. Francis Bacon. Dante’s Inferno. Black Mirror. Twilight Zone. Psychoville. A grocery list of things that go bump in the night.
My passion for our beloved Philippines and our people, and the advocacy to push our cuisine and produce forward inspire me to no end. May these inspirations continue to allow me to go outside of myself, always.
Anthony Bourdain is the person who inspires me. He is an intellectual who genuinely loves and champions street food. As a Pinoy chef, I am grateful that he put a spotlight on Filipino food! I can also identify with him because he started his career late in life. And lastly, his TV show rocks.
The unconditional love of my Creator! God was, is and will always be a loving Father! He has given me, an ordinary mortal, countless blessings and in so many ways manifested His wonderful love for me. Because of this, I live my life in a way truly and to the best of my ability pleasing to Him! My God moves and inspires me every second of the day!
I get my inspiration from everywhere. When I am feeling uncreative, I recharge by traveling, reading books, magazines, or search social media websites. I am inspired by nature: its colors, sound, aroma and patterns. I am inspired by my creative friends’ wisdom and artistic input. But the one thing that has inspired me the most is my family for providing me an environment where I can be me and putting up with me when I need my “me” time: when I need to create and focus on my work.
My family is my inspiration, they’re the reason why I work very hard. They bring me joy and happiness. When you’re happy, you become inspired in everything you do.
My daughter Karla Marina has been my greatest source of inspiration. As a single parent, I am so blessed and fulfilled to have been able to raise such a wonderful and dynamic daughter. We constantly learn from each other and draw strength from each other. I am so proud of her achievements and I pray that God will continue to bless her.
Sau Del Rosario
To me, there is no better feeling than waking up, eagerly looking forward to meeting my people in the kitchen and knowing that I am needed as much I need them. Such a joy to share my life’s worth and exchanging personal and professional experiences and knowledge. It is truly inspiring to know that every day is always full of love and joy.
I get inspired when I travel. What I see, taste, hear, feel and experience when i immerse myself in a culture other than my own. Being present in another place gives me fresh eyes to refocus on a new perspective, a different way of thinking, traditions and trends. Consuming local cuisine full of aromas and flavors that either make you swoon or gag.
These firsthand memories inspire and bring a welcome change to my everyday life at home and revitalize delicious creativity in my restaurant kitchens.
My son Marco. I now see everything in the world through the eyes of an eight-year-old.
My ultimate inspiration is my mom Lourdes: her love, passion and dedication to my dad and her family is beyond words; her sense of style and love for fashion was admirable and greatly influenced me as a designer — and that made me what I am now.
Inspiration is a personal journey. Often it comes to me when I experience something new or if I get a real emotional reaction to stimuli. Presently, it’s Philippine contemporary art and an upcoming adventure to Lisbon that makes me excited and inspired.
I’m actually inspired by everything but the things that I always go back to are music, art and film. Music from Ariana Grande to Caetano Veloso. Art from Matisse to Basquiat. Films from Pedro Almadovar to Ang Lee.
My travels around the world inspire me to use different colors, prints and textiles.
I feel like inspiration for me is ever-changing and can be pulled from all sorts of things, from a piece of art to a found item from a junkyard. But a constant and reliable source of inspiration for me is travel and all the things I discover along the way. I always learn something new about life, the world, my companions and myself every place I visit and I can’t think of a better source of inspiration than that.
What inspires me are beauty and nature. I believe we create incredible change in ourselves, in the world through beauty, while nature helps create a soulful extension of self, to experience an expression of creativity.
As a designer, you could derive inspiration from anything. An experience, an emotion, a religious icon, to the way the sun casts a shadow on a blade of grass.
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