Chapter 6: Angel Guides

'Just call me "Bring-'em-back-alive" Sherwood - that's my name,' whispered Ann breathlessly. She was so excited she could scarcely speak. She must tell Joy the whole story of what had led up to obtaining the recordings they had been warned they could never expect to get. It was past midnight, but she couldn't sleep anyhow, nor Joy either, and lying in their narrow camp beds in the Filipino house she described how she had captured that Negrito.

They had heard about the Negritos and read about them while they were in Manila. The little dark-brown aborigines, timid and fleet as deer, living in the forest and off the forest, moved about from one site to another like gypsies, and were rarely seen anywhere else. Ever since they had arrived in the northernmost tip of Luzon they had been asking the question, 'Do you see any Negritos here?' The response had always been the same - a shake of the head and the words, 'No, not here.' According to the anthropologist's report this was the area where they were to be found, but until the two recordists stayed in the home of the Spottswoods they met no-one who could give them any information about the Negritos.

Mr. Spottswood, however, had actually found where some of them lived. To do so had involved him in perilous trips in a small private plane over six thousand feet mountains. The great-hearted missionaries were planning to start a medical work amongst them, and the prospect of taking in gramophones with Negrito recordings aroused a hope that died almost as soon as it was born. It would be wonderful to be able to pass on the Good News in their own tongue along with the medicine! But how could these enthusiastic American women with their heavy recording equipment reach the elusive forest dwellers, find someone who knew their language well enough to communicate with them, and get recordings made in time to be back in Manila on schedule for their next trip? Humanly speaking, it was impossible. With other tribal groups, yes. In most cases they could be contacted. But the Negrito aborigines - only God could organise that.

'Oh, God - organise it for us . . .!'

Joy and Ann had moved on down the valley to a town where Mrs. Maggay, a well educated Filipina Christian, had agreed to record in the Ibanog language. They were in her home right now, excitedly recounting in low murmurs the events of the day. For that very afternoon, in this very room, a teen-age Negrito had sat speaking into the microphone, his ginger corkscrew hair quivering with amazement at the most extraordinary thing that had ever happened in his life. For when what he had said was played back, he heard a Negrito voice - (it couldn't be his own!) speaking to him out of that box.

It was too much for him. In a convulsion of laughter, wonder, fear, a confusion of emotions too overwhelming to be contained with dignity, he jerked over backwards, his whole four foot of body involved in the only expression adequate to the marvel.

It had gone on like this the whole afternoon and well on into the evening - Ann crouching over the recorder, Joy speaking in English, their Filipina hostess translating into Ibanog, a toothless but agile little man translating it into Negrito, and the Negrito himself speaking it in his own way. Every time what he had said was played back to him the same thing had happened. He jerked over backwards and shook with laughter. But in spite of the regular delays, they were able to make several recordings before he departed. They could still scarcely believe it.

'How did you get him?' whispered Joy. It was the first time they had had the opportunity to talk together, and Ann eagerly told her story.

It had all started with a disappointment, as Joy knew. They had had a lot of trouble with the recorder, but just after midday it had started working satisfactorily and they were ready to begin recording. Then, to their consternation, Mrs. Maggay had announced in her clear, careful English,

'An emergency has come about and I must go across town to do an errand.'

The deeply engrained attitude that all things work together for good stood up to the test. They did not display their inward alarm lest the generator wouldn't last out, and Ann cheerfully suggested that she should take Mrs. Maggay in the car, to save time. Mrs. Maggay had a friend who wanted a lift, too, and the three of them set out. It was on the way back that Ann had asked if any Negritos ever came here.

Yes, they came to town sometimes, she was told. They walked the five days from their camp once or twice a month. In fact, they had been in last Sunday, but had all gone away now . . .

Then Mrs. Maggay's friend said something to her in Ibanog, and Mrs. Maggay nodded.

'Oh, yes, he might know . . . Miss Sherwood, please stop right here!' Ann drew up sharply by the kerb, where an old man was sitting on a chair outside his shop. He had no teeth, but he was agile enough and smiling. After a few words with Mrs. Maggay he disappeared.

'In not more than two shakes of a lamb's tail he was back!' whispered Ann. 'And with him the Negrito!' A real live Negrito, clad in only a red loin cloth and his own brown velvet skin! 'Then Mrs. Maggay explained that Mr. Gonzales, the old man, could speak Negrito! Think of it! And he'd be glad to come to her house to help translate for our recordings!

'So that's how it happened. I poked around in the back of the car to make room for our little Negrito and he got in, bending over so he could stand without hitting his head. Then I let the seat back gently, to make sure it didn't crush him. It didn't so we moved over and made room for Mr. Gonzales to sit with us on the front seat. I was going to get them all back to the house or bust! "Bring-'em-back-alive Sherwood" - that's me!'

It was the highlight of those first months in the Philippines. They were on their way back to Manila by this time, traveling through the world-famous rice terraces of Bontoc, over the dangerous trail to Lubuagan. They recorded fifteen tribal languages there, with the help of Christian students in a Bible School. Arriving in Baguio they learned that a rumour had spread around that they were missing, possibly captured by Huk guerillas. The welcome they received was all the warmer because of the relief that was felt at seeing them. When at last they reached Manila and the shelter of the F.E.B.C./F.E.B.I.A.S. estate they had obtained recordings in forty languages and dialects.

'It is wonderful to be on the last lap of the work here,' wrote Joy to the team in Los Angeles, as she looked back over the Luzon trip. 'Each experience, though hard at the time, turns out to be so happy and delightful that it doesn't leave us always looking forward to something nicer - except, of course, home! That never fails to have a wooing charm. That almost seems too wonderful to be true, that we'll be there with all of you again! What an incentive!'

But there were eight more months to go, and the islands of Mindanao, Mindoro and Palawan to visit. They turned their attention to the next trip.

* * * * *

'Not go to Mindanao now? Wait until the autumn?'

Joy and Ann looked at each other in dismay, then again at the letter that had just arrived. It re-affirmed a warm welcome to Mindanao, but implied clearly that it would be wiser to postpone their visit until later in the year. They suddenly found themselves facing the thing they had dreaded.

'That means we'll have to go to Mindoro instead.'

'Mindoro! Now? Oh, no!'

Mindanao had seemed so safe and secure, with the assurance of Christian and Missionary Alliance workers to meet them, arrange their itineraries, welcome them into their homes. The hardships in travel, the long hours crouching over the recorder, ears attuned to every sound, the inevitable bouts of dysentery, would all be alleviated by the ready help of the missionaries.

But on the island of Mindoro there were no missionaries. Around the coast the Filipinos in the towns and villages, as elsewhere in the Philippines, were Roman Catholic. Although it was said there were a few isolated Protestants here and there, no-one could provide the name of even one person who would be willing to help two American recordists to reach the Mangyan, the pagan tribes hidden away in the vast, steamy, jungle-clad mountains of the interior. Not surprisingly, therefore, Joy had decided first to visit the islands where there were missionaries, and having gained experience, finally to go to Mindoro.

This last minute reversal of plans, however, left them with no alternative if they were to accomplish what they had set out to do. They must go to Mindoro now, if they were to go at all, and they knew enough about travelling in the Philippines to shrink from the prospect. It would have been difficult enough if they could have gone by car, all their baggage piled up behind them, but there was no thought of taking a car to Mindoro. They would have to travel by bus down to the port of Batangas, taking their baggage with them, and when they arrived they would disembark and find themselves on the beach, their baggage with them . . . And then?

Where would they go with their baggage? How would they find the Mangyan, the tribal people hidden in the mountains? And even if they found them, how would they communicate without a bi-lingual middleman?

On the face of it, it was foolhardy to set out in such a fashion, on such an enterprise. They dared not do it, they agreed, unless they were absolutely sure they were in the Lord's plan. Joy, usually so energetic, now refused to be hurried. She refused to spend a lot of time studying the map of Mindoro, either. What was the use of knowing the names of the towns and villages round the coast, tracing the rivers that flowed down through the jungles, guessing at where there might be settlements of Mangyan up there in the impenetrable mountains? What they needed was not a map, but a guide.

For some days she spent most of her time sitting reading her Bible, chapter after chapter, praying and reading, praying and reading, until her mind was saturated with the words and certain phrases came to life, like little springs bubbling up from the moist ground.

'And he brought forth his people with joy and his chosen with gladness; and gave them the lands of the heathen.' Ps.105:43,44. She was conscious of a quickening, but the authoritative word had not yet come. Then one day, reading in Exodus, she came to Chapter 23:20.

'Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.'

That was it. An angel guide! What form the angel would take she did not know. Perhaps someone with an aeroplane that would turn up at the last minute, as happened once in Alaska, and sweep them off, baggage and all, to their destination! Anyhow, the way was clear - they must prepare to go to Mindoro, since God had assured them He would see them to the place He had prepared for them.

Now it was all activity. Ann's hands were already full, editing the tapes they were to send back to Los Angeles, so Joy set about making the preparations for a journey that would be different from anything they'd undertaken before.

No heavy trunks this time. All must be hand luggage they could carry themselves. Cheap canvas bags, light rattan suitcases, bedrolls and mosquito nets.

  • Rubber boots for walking through swamps.
  • Shoes with leather soles, since crepe soles melted in the heat.
  • Seersucker blouses and nylon skirts for easy washing.
  • Raincoats - it rained a lot in Mindoro.
  • Sweaters - it could be very cold in an open boat.
  • Medicines. They must be prepared for dysentery, malaria...

In addition to all that there was the heavy but indispensable electrical tape recorder requiring generator. electric cords, transformer, booster, volt meter and extra gasoline.

That recording equipment, weighing one hundred and fifty pounds, was the main problem, yet without it the whole trip would be pointless. Oh, for the protection of their own vehicle in which to store it, as on former occasions. How could the two of them, among strangers, keep their eyes on everything at once? How could they preserve it from getting damp or damaged - or stolen when they weren't looking? The obvious possibilities had to be faced and guarded against as much as possible - but not much was possible.

Then one day a parcel arrived from the U.S.A. addressed to Miss Joy Ridderhof. It was not very large, and when they unpacked it they saw a box of six by six by sixteen inches, covered with bright red imitation leather. A present from Al Rethey and Herman Dyk - they'd made it themselves, and hoped it would prove useful.

Joy and Ann gasped. It looked like a toy. It couldn't be a real tape recorder that worked on batteries.

But it was. Holding their breath they plugged in the microphone and made a trial recording, then played it back. Perfect! They tried again. Perfect! They examined it upside down and down side up, exclaiming with amazement when they realised that the batteries inside would last for a month, and that a spare set would be so small it could be slipped into a handbag.

It was unique. There was not another like it in all the world. No need now for the generator and the electric cords, the transformer and the booster, the volt meter and the extra gasoline and the heavy electrical tape recorder. Instead, just this one item that could be carried under the arm!

As things turned out, they could not have managed without it. Even at that point, its arrival transformed the situation for them, reducing their baggage so drastically. All the same, on the day when at last they boarded a crowded bus they waved a very reluctant goodbye to a group of FEBC friends who had come to see them off. They were embarking on the most hazardous journey they had ever undertaken. They did not know where they would spend the night, they and their baggage, how they would find their way to the steamer, what they would do when they landed in Mindoro. It was like stepping off the edge of a cliff into a void.

At this point God's secret service came into operation, as they were passed from one unknown person to another until they reached the Mangyan.

It started on the bus going to Batangas. 'Where you stay in Batangas?' enquired the friendly Filipino conductor. Joy didn't know, so rather lamely asked if he could recommend a hotel. A whispered conversation, then his wife said shyly 'We poor. Our house very small. We like you come to our house?'

Joy beamed. Her excitement got the better of her theology as she called out in Spanish to Ann, sitting farther back, 'Ann - I've met an angel and his wife!' Then she said to the little woman sitting beside her, 'We like very much come to your house.'

Duly deposited with their baggage at the conductor's house, there were various friends and relations to meet. Among them was Caridad. 'My cousin. She live in Mindoro. She go to Mindoro tomorrow. You like she go with you?'

'Oh, yes!' The exquisite wonder of it! Behold, I send an angel before thee to keep thee in the way . . . 'Oh, yes! We like very much Caridad go with us.'

The next morning they boarded the steamer for Mindoro, Caridad in charge.

'Where you go in Mindoro?' asked Caridad conversationally. They didn't know, but feeling they ought to say something replied rather uncertainly, 'We go Calahan.' They'd seen the name on the map.

'Why you not go Nauhan?' she enquired.

Why not, indeed? One place is as good as another when you know nothing about either.

'All right. We go Nauhan.'

They arrived in Mindoro, and Caridad saw the baggage was all stowed on the little bus which they also boarded. They bounced along the road through coconut groves and palm trees until they came to Nauhan. God's secret service was operating flawlessly, although Caridad knew nothing about it. She just knew that these two American women were Protestants, and that her neighbours, Mr. And Mrs. Elpidio Adalia were Protestants also. She led Joy and Ann through a little gate, along a path to a wooden house and introduced them. She felt sure it would be a good place for them to stay.

It proved to be, indeed, the place that God had prepared for them. Mr. Adalia, home from Manila on a short vacation, was training for the Presbyterian ministry and welcomed them into his home. It became their Mindoro headquarters, from where they were put on the track of other isolated Protestant Filipinos who were able to lead them to the Mangyan.

The first were the Sulits of Bongabong. When Mr. And Mrs. Sulit got over their surprise at having two American women arrive at the foot of the ladder leading up to their nipa home they welcomed them with warm Filipino hospitality, but shook their heads when they were asked about Mangyan.

'We are so sorry. We rarely see any Mangyan. They are afraid of village people and now that it is the rainy season they don't come down from the hills.'

Joy and Ann were undaunted. 'We've asked God to send them to us,' they said, 'And we believe He will. Please look out for them,' and nine little Sulits spread eagerly around, watching for Mangyan, while Ann set up the tape recorder. An hour later the electrifying cry went out.

'Mangyans! Mangyans!' Sure enough, there they were -- two teen-age boys with timid expressions on their bloated faces, long black hair tied back with string, emaciated bodies clad with loin cloths and not much else. They were selling wild orchids so that they could buy lime for the betel nut their people up in the hills were wanting.

'And one of them can speak Tagalog!' exclaimed Mr. Sulit, who had approached them gently so as not to frighten them away. 'That's why he's been sent to do the trading.'

The rest of the day and half of the next was spent squatting on the floor with the Sulits and the Mangyan, slowly, carefully speaking a sentence at a time in English - Tagalog - Mangyan. Then the machine went into action, and the Mangyan sentence was captured and played back.

The reaction of the Mangyan was different from that of the Negrito as they listened to a Mangyan voice speaking out of the little red box. They were bewildered, breathless, rather apprehensive. But after a time they gained courage, the puckered brows smoothed, and they smiled. Before they left, four recordings had been made, and Joy and Ann moved on, too. There were other voices in Mindoro to capture.

When they left the island a month later they had obtained recordings in the tribal languages of five of the ethnic groups of the primitive, half-naked peoples of the inland mountains. Within a few months those people would be able to hear a box talking, telling in their own tongue, spoken by one of themselves, the amazing news that

Chief of Sky, He who made sky and earth and all in it, He send already message to all people of world. Message this in bundle of leaves they call 'Bundle of Leaves what Chief of Sky says', and it tells how Chief Of Sky give Son His, He has only one son, come to earth receive punishment of sins ours. He love us very much until He die on tree tied crosswise so that we not receive punishment in wicked village down below, place of fire and torment forever...

It was July by this time, and in a little over four months their visas would expire. They returned to Manila and remained just long enough to edit the tapes and dispatch them to Los Angeles, write innumerable letters, then prepare for their next trips, to Palawan and finally to Mindanao. Then they set off again.

'It's the rainy season in Palawan,' they were warned, 'Torrential rains there. Most of the travelling has to be done by boat, too. Often held up by storms.'

They found it to be true as soon as they arrived. The home of the Filipino pastor who had invited them to stay was a cottage built out from the shore with the water lapping under it at high tide. For the first three days the rain beat down on the roof, drove across the sea obscuring the view, hemming them in.

'If it weren't so stormy I could take you over there tomorrow,' their host said, looking towards Culion. It was on this island, in 1906, that General Gordon had established what was for nearly half a century the biggest leprosy colony in the world. 'There's a man there who speaks Calamiano, and you could start recording. But we haven't seen the sun for weeks,' he continued with a sign, 'And we couldn't go in rain like this.'

'Mr. Sosa,' said Joy earnestly. 'If you can furnish the boat and take us, I'm sure God will arrange the weather. He always does.' Then, sensing rather than seeing the amused glances that passed between some of the others in the room, she felt challenged. She knew God was able to still the incessant downpour, and she wanted Him to prove it. 'Let us pray now, ask Him to do it,' she said, and then and there closing her eyes, prayed aloud that all might hear.

The memory of that prayer was her first waking thought next morning, and she crept past Ann's recumbent form to go and peep out through the shutters. Was the sky clear? The massed bank of grey clouds, and the rush of rain on her face was the answer that drove her back into the room, and to her knees. It was not only that others might know that the Lord of whom she spoke was alive, ready to hear and answer prayer, but because there was so little time left for her and Ann to fulfil their task. Mr. Sosa, fisherman as well as pastor, would soon be too busy to spend his days with them. If they could not start on recording trips to neighbouring islands soon, it would be too late. Lord, I praise You for what You're going to do!

By nine o'clock that morning the rain had ceased. The fishing boat was launched, and they moved off ...

* * * * *

Their journeys in the next few weeks took them from the northern tip of the Palawan group of islands to Brookes Point in the far south. It was here they encountered their deepest disappointment. For the first time in their trip to the Philippines they had to leave without making any recordings.

It was all the more humiliating because this particular fortnight had been planned with such joyful enthusiasm and meticulous care by Sandy Sutherland and his wife. Months before, when these Brethren missionaries from Scotland heard about Gospel Recordings they had written urging Joy to come. 'Welcome Stop Large Opportunity for Records Here Stop' had been their telegraphed response to her preliminary letter, and they had spent hours preparing for the visit. Joy and Ann were welcomed with heart-warming eagerness.

'When at last we heard the guid news that you were coming to Palawan,' said Sandy in the deep Scottish brogue that years in the east had not dulled, 'often groups of us would sit together on the beach in the evenings and talk about it, wondering how soon we could expect you.' His wife had even translated some songs, with the help of an interpreter, into tribal languages, for it was known the records contained music. 'We have been practising with a selected quartette of guid voices, to be prepared for you.'

Everything was ready, the little chapel was crowded, the bi-lingual Palawano was working on the scripts, the quartette was waiting to sing what they had been practising as Joy walked with Sandy towards the chapel. Passing the little houses on stilts that lay among the ferns and rich foliage of that quiet, palmy Eden, her excitement was intense. They had had a trying time at their previous port of call, with the recorder going out of action for days until, almost at the last moment, in answer to urgent prayer, Ann had discovered the fault, and all had gone well again. It had been a spiritual conflict, but although they had almost given up, they'd won through in the end. It had left them somewhat exhausted, however, and it was a relief to know that the recorder was working properly now. With so much preparation and prayer, this trip to Brookes Point promised to be one of the most profitable and pleasurable yet.

Then, as they entered the chapel, Joy's heart sank. Ann was crouching over the machine, and she was pulling it to pieces. Something had gone wrong again, and there were no technicians to help here.

'We usually have a test like this to begin with,' Joy told the Sutherlands. It was no unusual experience, and they could understand that. 'But it always works eventually so that we get the records. Let's just keep on rejoicing!'

But this time it was different. They prayed, they praised, they spent hours working on the recorder, trying everything they could think of, but the result was always the same. No response. The machine was dead. It remained the same for the two weeks they were at Brookes Point.

'Said I not unto thee, if thou wouldest believe thou shouldest see the glory of God?' was the text Joy spoke on, the last Sunday they were there. It was the word Jesus had spoken to Martha at the grave of her brother, when all human hope had died. It seemed appropriate to the occasion, and as she spoke Joy glowed with faith. But the next day, aboard the little inter-island steamer that was to carry them north again, she wrote rather wearily in her diary, 'Monday, August 21. Left Brookes Point without any recordings.' Then she added valiantly, 'The Lord teaches our hands to war. We are learning more about spiritual warfare, and have many opportunities to rejoice.'

Elsewhere in her little notebook she had written something else. The words were simply, 'Lastani - Farm School, Aborlan'. It was the name and address of a Palawano boy from Brookes Point who was bi-lingual. She'd made a note of it, just in case . . . And also that there were three girls from Brookes Point at school in Puerto Princesa, farther up the coast, who had learned some of the songs that had been translated. She'd made a note of that, just in case . . . One must keep on the alert, for one never knew what God might be preparing. One didn't rejoice for nothing.

It was on that boat moving away from Brookes Point, the place of such perplexing disappointment, that light began to dawn. Before the day was out Joy had added to that morning entry, 'A friend from Aborlan is on our boat. He is a judge there, and assures us that he will go to the Farm School to request that Lastani be allowed to go to Puerto Princesa to help us for a few days!'

The next day there was a single entry, 'Arrived in Puerto Princesa Tuesday evening.'

Wednesday's entry read, 'The recorder has been at the shop all day. The trouble seems to be a broken wire which goes into the plug of one of the B. batteries.'

Thursday's entry, 'Lastani is here! He is translating the scripts one after another, writing them beautifully, reading them with fluency and such expression. The recorder is working off and on. But gradually we are getting the records.'

Over the weekend the three schoolgirls were located and brought along. Yes, they remembered the songs they had learned. They sang them clearly and sweetly.

So the Palawano recordings were made after all.

Joy never sent a more jubilant, praiseful telegram to anyone than that which was dispatched to the Sutherlands at Brookes Point. The whole experience had tested her faith to an unusual degree. She had sensed the deep disappointment of the missionaries who had worked and prayed so much in anticipation of the visit which was to provide them with the wonderful new means of spreading the Gospel in the languages they themselves could not speak. It had been contrary to all her former experience to continue day after day, right to the very end of the arranged fortnight, believing and rejoicing in expectation of a sudden solution that this time was not given. 'It always works eventually so that we get the records.' She had asserted on that first evening, and she had fully expected that before the end of the visit it would happen. It would be such an encouragement to the young believers whom the missionaries had been preparing so enthusiastically - strengthen their faith! Surely God would do it!

But God's ways are past finding out. He who had stilled the storm in response to her cry in the fisherman's cottage delayed His answer at Brookes Point. The satisfaction of achievement was known elsewhere than at the place and with the people she most desired to enjoy it. She was learning that He works to no set pattern.

The last two months of the Philippines trip were in some ways the easiest of all. Down in the southern island of Mindanao missionaries had prepared itineraries for the recordists, and interpreters and transport were provided too. Joy and Ann had to spend more time than usual in writing new scripts to make their message relevant to ethnic groups whose culture and beliefs were different from those in the islands farther north, but long hours of work were less strain than the spiritual conflicts they had encountered earlier.

'We see the Lord's hand upon us for good in so many ways, I never can fathom His tenderness and thoughtfulness,' wrote Joy gratefully in her diary during those months. She saw in the smoothing of the pathway evidence of her Master's care that others often failed to observe. 'He is so unpretentious about what He does. You have to be wide awake to observe all the intricate design in it.'

Even on the occasion when they launched out on their own in response to the unexpected approaches of a loud-voiced young woman who undertook to 'find you languages' they ended up in surroundings so delectable they felt they had been to a luxury home on Hollywood hills. The loud-voiced young woman who appeared from nowhere as they sat in a hot little restaurant waiting to cross a ferry, told them she worked at a gold mine, and that there she would find them some languages. Stranger as she was, she displayed some of the characteristics that Joy had loved in the bold, fearless Cruzita of Marcala. Joy was prepared to trust her, even though the story of the gold mine sounded rather far-fetched. The promise of more languages could not be ignored. So they went with her, and sure enough, her story proved to be true. There was a gold mine, and there were people connected with it who spoke two of the languages they wanted to capture. The most fantastic part of the whole escapade, however, was that their guide had entry to the luxurious cottage on the hills above the mine, which was used by the director when he visited the place. A relative of hers was the resident cook. So for two days Joy and Ann enjoyed baths and showers in a tiled bathroom with running water, beds with interior-spring mattresses, iced drinks and good American food, perfectly cooked and served. After the steamy plains where their bodies were always sticky and the beds hard, it was like entering a dream world. But the crowning triumph of the whole adventure was to obtain recordings in the language of the fierce and practically inaccessible Manobo tribe. The smiling cook in the dream-world happened to be a Manobo, and was only too happy to oblige!

When eventually they boarded the United States freighter that was to take them back across the Pacific they had obtained recordings in ninety-two languages. In half of them no part of the Bible had been translated, nor was the Gospel known. So ended for them the most momentous and significant year of their lives.

Chapter 7: What Is a Leader?

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