Motorcycles in the Philippines

Before I start let me say that I have owned quite a few Motorcycles during my time here on Earth, and in my estimation there is no greater feeling of road freedom one can have, albeit a small convertible cars will come close.

The pictures posted here are photos of a couple my machines, but as I do have an Ex-wife that somehow caused a lot of my old photos to have disappeared, along with a house and many other things. I will post the few pictures I have left, but could find none of my two Harley’s My BSA and a couple of others. The other photos are from here in Asia.

A friend of mine went to his former house in Florida and found that there had be a break according to his EX and the thief only took his stuff.

Here in the Philippines I long for the thrill of two wheels again, but at age 67 (This Week) I put it behind me as did Little Jacky Paper (Puff the Magic Dragon) I’ve had to put my childhood dreams away. Plus my wife Mayang did say; “HELL NO!”

I’ve watched the way they operate these underpowered only a step above Moped machines here. They are ridden with absolutely no regard for any common sense or the rules and laws of man. It was reported on the local TV News that more people are killed while riding on two wheels than in any other mode of transportation. The life expectancy of a stray chicken on the National Highways is far greater here in the Philippines then being on two wheels. It has gotten so bad that Trike drivers complain about the motorcycles.

The government is planning on new laws to solve this growing problem. But in fact all that must be done is to enforce the laws they have. A motorcycle must operate on a public road under the same rules as any other form of transportation. Yes it’s just that simple.

On Friday while waiting for my wife at the bank in Olongapo, a van pulled to the right to discharge three young passengers onto the sidewalk. Not knowing that a motorcycle (90cc) who was also using that part of the road as his personnel lane. Had he hit the vans door I would have cracked up on the spot, but the kids were exiting by the sliding door and he hit all three slightly.

The van driver thumped the motorcycle rider a few times on the head after it was found that the children were not seriously hurt. The police arrived scratched some stuff on a piece of paper and the dumb rider was allowed to go on his way.

I refuse to lecture those hardy folks that choose to ride here for I too still have a love for two wheels and we all liked that TV Show “Sons of Anarchy” but if you remember these bikers had rules whereas here it is true anarchy on the road and no rules apply. So agree or disagree with me if you must, but the bottom line is “Please Stay Safe”

Post Author: Paul Thompson (314 Posts)

Paul Thompson; has resided in the Philippines since 1993, living close to Subic Bay. I’m married to a wonderful girl named Maria (AKA Mayang).Who is from Gordon Heights in Olongapo where she grew up with her Mom & Dad and seven siblings Our two daughters are both grown up and have left the nest, the eldest married to a wonderful guy named Chris, and they have blessed us with our granddaughter Heather Colleen Our youngest daughter and her husband Cecil have blessed us with a grandson named. Jayden Logan. I’m a retired U.S. NAVY Senior Chief after 22 years of active duty. After retirement from the Navy I lived for 7 years in Puerto Rico as a Night Club owner. Then Hurricane Hugo told me to find a new line of work, I was hired by Military Sealift Command and went back to sea in Asia as a Merchant Seaman for 10 years. After 30 plus years at sea I buried my anchor on a mountain in the Philippines and am now residing in Dinalupihan (or DinBat for short), Roosevelt, Bataan where we built our home. And last but not least, anything I writes will be pure "Tongue in Cheek "If anybody is offended, I'll lose no sleep over it, but here's a quick Mea Culpa in advance!

How to Move to the Philippines Manual


  1. John Weeks says

    Paul – Happy Birthday to you @ 67 years young!

    One of the prices I paid to move here was to give up my 2007 Ducati Monster – a bike I dearly loved to ride. But it was only because I lived where I could ride with relative safety that made the experience so liberating. I’m with you; no way I’d ride a motorcycle on most streets here. I even stopped feeling guilty a while back for cursing the motorcycle riders – especially in Manila – these guys are NUTS and pose a public danger – especially where kids are concerned! I still can’t get used to seeing babies without helmets sitting behind the handlebars in city traffic, when I’M afraid in my SUV (shudder).

    BUT…. We live in Tagaytay now – a much-sought-after destination, it seems, for every motorcycle and sport car group in this part of Luzon. On any given Sunday, you’ll find more of these groups on the road than you might imagine. So while I almost took out a brand-new Vespa rider with my Montero Sport just yesterday (he would have deserved it for the move he pulled – but I digress), I can’t help but find myself thinking it might be nice… maybe some day… Gosh, early Saturday mornings are awfully nice up here!

    Then again, I’m usually on my way to the golf course at such times… So maybe the the daydream will have to be enough after all…. Still, I can’t bring myself to throw out that Arai helmet.


    • Paul Thompson says

      The Pinoy believes that they have bought a no rules required form of transportation.
      One of the things I loved was kicking it on my Norton from Jacksonville Florida to Key West on my Norton. But then on A1A there were rules that were enforced.

    • Dennis Glass says

      Hello. I also live in Tagaytay. I’m and American ex-pat. Just wanted to say hello. My name is Dennis

  2. says

    Anarchy Rules apply when driving anything in the Philippines whether two, thee or four wheels and above. The only law that seems to apply consistently is the laws of Physics that when combined dictates the he ho has the heaviest largest vehicle will survive the crash the most often. Excluding buss crashes where the leave the road and tumble down a mountain, bigger is definitely better and generally are given right of way! I fully believe that a Philippine drivers license is is issued only to collect revenue and Identify dead drivers

    • Paul Thompson says

      You are talking about the rule of TONNAGE which I believe in.
      Your comment that “Anarchy Rules” is an oxymoron because there are no rules with anarchy; it’s like the driving teat’ Rule number one. There is no rule number two.

  3. says

    First of all, I hope you had a wonderful Birthday. Your article is a great reminder of how people need to be careful. Riders and pedestrians alike. My riding days ended back in 2003 when I broke my right leg in seven places. Funny thing is I was only going 25 mph. Tops!

    I won’t be driving anything with two wheels. Especially over there!!

    Have a safe day!


    • Paul Thompson says

      There is a time to put your toys away, on my 50th birthday I cut my hair as I felt the pony tail in gray, was not the image I wanted to put out there. I stopped riding bikes because I like cold beer. It was one or the other.

  4. Brenton Butler says

    Hi Paul
    You would have been in your element in Dumaguete last week, they had a big ride and all kinds of cool Harley’s and other bikes. There was a hundred or two hundred in total. There was a 3 day ride through Negros.

    In regards to laws, the start would be wearing helmets, which is law now. In Dumaguete about 1 in 10 people used to comply after the laws were implemented, now it’s like 1 in 20 or 1 in 30. I guess it’s all good till you crash and strike your head though. I know other road rules exist, but it’s more a matter of who ever really wants to get somewhere first, has right of way. They don’t even have traffic lights in
    Dumaguete yet.

    67 but still good looking!

    • Paul Thompson says

      Big bikes abound on Luzon Sit-N’-Bull one of my hangouts always has a Harley or two outside, and the owner’s inside.
      For some reason big bikes are respected here. Helmets are required for the Kano but not for the infant on the gas tank.
      Traffic lights? Olongapo has one stop sign, but it doesn’t work.

  5. says

    First…The picture of your Norton Commander…Bring back memory…have had that, what a machine it was those days.

    Now i ride motorcycle again here in Philippines. I love it, it is a kind of challenge every time i take it out for a spin. I know, i know, it’s dangerous, but what isn’t? At least i do something that most Filipino drivers don’t do: I wear a helmet :-) Also i drive with all my remaining senses very much awake and follow all rules in traffic. I know others don’t follow rules, but i can’t do more than follow them, drive safely as i have learned to do and keep an eye on all things moving around me, especially the unexpected. I do not take it for granted that others hold back at intersections, i do not take anything for granted, when it comes to traffic rules.

    I love riding, it’s the ultimate freedom and pleasure. I only use my car, when i need to have space for a lot of grocery.

    In the start my Asawa also said…NO….No way, my nephews said… dangerous.. but i do have my free will and as an adult i can do what i want, as long as i obey the law. Now she’s happy to ride on the backseat and save a lot of time and money.

    • Paul Thompson says

      I agree with you if one rides with due diligent they have a greater chance of survival. In this article I never said “Don’t Ride” I was pointing out the danger that is involved. On two wheels seldom are you the hitter of another person, you are the one being hit by them. They just happen to be wrapped in a metal cage with airbags. And yes that Norton was a screamer.

  6. GaryM says

    I plan on getting a small motorcycle when I get there. It will be an inexpensive way to get back and forth to school. I will wear a helmet and ride sensibly. I have seen too many people get seriously hurt or worse on bikes.

    • Paul Thompson says

      You will ride sensibly; I just wish we could say that about the people you’ll be sharing the road with. Stay safe and enjoy.

      • JOHN says

        I ride a motorbike or scooter daily here in Bohol, using my car only in rain or for heavy shopping. Helmet always and full gear when on a trip. I have ridden around Bohol, through Cebu to Bantayan Island, around Siquijor, northern Mindanao to Camiguin Island and even Cotabato. Camiguin is a joy on a motorcycle due to excellent roads and so little traffic. I have been driving in the Philippines for over 10 years, so well know the driving habits or lack of them here, not to speak of cattle, dogs and drunk pedestrians on the road. Driving defensively is a must, as it is anywhere on two wheels. At 67, I am planning on upgrading to a KTM Duke 390 for my 68th birthday for more distant touring adventures.

  7. Bill S. says

    Happy Birthday Paul!!

    I am 11 years your junior, but gave up 2 wheels a few years back, just too dangerous anymore to ride, unless your with a large bunch of riders.

    I need a minimum of 4 wheels or better yet, tracks on heavy equipment. I will not under any circumstances ride any motorcycles on any roads, once we move there. I am still trying to decide about even driving a car there, I assume there are some kind of laws or mabe just casual rules that motorists go by there, but for the life of me, I sure have not figured them out yet.

    • Paul Thompson says

      Bill S;
      Hey youngster! (lol) Drive a car here is an adventure as long as you are not subject to road rage. In Puerto Rico I was cured of that, they cut you off? No harm no foul you’ll be allowed to do it the next time and be forgiven. The same applies here, play the game and smile, the timid never cross the intersection.

  8. papaduck says

    Never owned a motorcycle, but my brother owns 10 or so, a few classics and often goes on long road trips. Paul I think you would look good riding one of those Harley or Can Am Spider three wheelers. Hope you had a nice bday yesterday.

    • Paul Thompson says

      Bikes are not for everyone, but they are a great way to travel, and its true riding in a group is even better. Cars seem to give way when they see 10 to 12 big bikes in their rear-view mirror.

  9. Don says

    Paul, your in a great area (Subic) to ride big bikes. We ride north all the time, and just going to La Union for the day is great. And you can be in AC in under an hour.

    In Manila, complete different world for bikers. Some parts (Quezon city) have deemed bikers to be criminals and have created all sorts of stupid laws to ban them. Ride only in blue lane, no full face helmets, stickers on helmets, no back riders, number plate on vest, only white helmets, and so on.

    Anyway. if you want to ride sometime, just ask Ron and he can set you up.

    MDMC Don

    • Paul Thompson says

      I see you guys at the Bull, and will admit I’m a tad jealous thinking back to all the runs I’ve been on. But that’s in my past now. But my love for bikes is forever. Next time I’m at the Bull, I’ll talk to Ron. Watch out for those swarms of 90 to 125 CC flies on the highway. Stay safe.

  10. Jade says

    I had a Sunkist 250 X 6 Hustler in ’69 for 2 years and I survived it, thankfully.
    Daisy had a small motor bike when she was younger. And if I can judge from her car driving – “Crazy Daisy The Threat of South Expressway” – I am happy she survived it.
    I’d love to have a motorcycle in the Philippines but I’d love to live another year also.

      • Heinz Schirmaier says

        Hay Jade! Suzuki-Sunkist what’s the diff? We used to call Kawasaki’s Kowalskies. Back in the 1970’s a lot of people raced them, they were very fast, problem was they only wanted to go in a straight line, wouldn’t corner a damn!

        • says

          Harleys are only for discriminating bikers ) Those that discriminate against riders on any other brand ) I rode a 750 Suzuki 3 cylinder water cooled two stroke which the Harley bikers called a “Rice Burner”. When i made road trips ,usually during bike week in Daytona FL, BIKES i WOULD SEE ON THE SHOULDER OF THE INTERSTATE BROKE DOWN WERE all HARLEYS SO i WAS HAPPY WITH MY SUPER QUICK “RICE BURNER

      • Paul Thompson says

        It was all I could afford the 250 Suzuki, but a great little bike, but the next year I was divorced and that brand new 750 Norton replaced my EX, and a much better ride.

        • Jade says

          Once I rode the 250 Sunkist from Minneapolis to Duluth.
          Dammit spellchecker
          Yer Japanese cant ya sprell?
          Started out in Mpls at 90F…
          By the time I got to Duluth it was 50F.
          Got to my girlfriends place and crawled into bed.
          To cure my hypothermia.
          I got cured.

  11. says

    Hi Paul, I love my Honda 125 XRM – I have been here in the Philippines for two years – the first year I rode a 27 speed mountain bike in Luzon. It was great, but no room for the wife and she cannot drive anything with two wheels. Now I have the XRM in Dumaguete and it is great. I love off-roading as there are so many bad roads here. Lots of mountain trails and places tol see in the hills around Valencia.

    One driving rule I have observed here is that if the driver ahead (be it motorcyclist or trike or jeepney or easy-ride) slows down, they are going to do something. – slow for texting, slow for turning, slow for something on the road, slow for talking with a friend – who knows.

    One other thing I have seen is that a left turn signal be it by hand, foot or passenger is more easily managed than any other signal. I even saw a tricycle driver signal a left turn with his knee! Only in the Philippines! :-)

    • Paul Thompson says

      In Puerto Rico in the mountains the roads are narrow, if you come upon to cars stopped while attempting to pass, they are talking. Do not be rude and blow your horn. But if you have cold beer with you may join in or if you see that they do.
      John enjoy your bike but just be careful.
      Any signal is a good signal, as the Blinkah light is on all day anyway.

  12. Tommy Davis says

    I bought a new motor bike in Iligan City , even I am from the states, married to a wonder girl. Was easy, no proof of anything. Handed me a new helmet and on the way I go. Most around here do not wear helmets just have to be on the bike some where. Wish there was a type of training for them to go thru. When I was in the AirForce, we had a six week class, and a trip thru the cones, I retired too, enjoy living here, a lot better than the states. Thank You for the news letter again.

    • Paul Thompson says

      The Navy had that training too, not for cars only for bikes. U borrowed my friend’s small bike for the test through the cones, because a Harley was NOT designed to ride like that.

  13. says

    First off, those are nice looking vintage finds. I would love to own one of them. But yes, sometimes ingenuity and safety are being confused or maybe, a locality does not really have any options for a suitable and reliable mode of transportation.

  14. Bob New York says

    Hi Paul,
    On the past couple of visits the thought has crossed my mind about trying to ent a motorcycle since it would seem a bit more manuverable on the roads and in traffic there. Once I am there though I kind of change my mind and stick with the taxis. If I have friends with me I also will use the jeepneys. Like you, when I was ” a bit ” younger I had two motorcycles a Honda 160 and a Suzuki 250 a few years later. Filipinos are great about making things, I guess when it comes to the roads it is make your own rules of the road LOL. Thanks for the reminder Paul, I’ll stick with the taxis and Jeepneys.

    While I was in CDO a couple of times I rode on what I think they call a ” motorela ” ( not to be confused with Motorola ) . With 4 other passengers aboard the driver really had to burn the clutch to get the thing moving. Looked kind of like some kind of mini engine on the motorcycle.

    • Paul Thompson says

      The riders who understand the rules of the road will fare better than the ones who make them up as the go along.
      Those who want the fun of two wheels I applaud, as I know the feeling very well. I was in my 20’s and rented a Vesper in Naples Italy, In the states I had a bike in storage in Florida so knowing how to ride was never an issue. But after one hour on the road there I returned the scooter and didn’t even ask for a refund..

  15. SteveC says

    Happy Birthday Paul, I enjoy reading your articles. The motorcycle issue is one I’m currently having a little trouble with. We’re planning our move in three years so I’ve started early trying to convince my significant other that I really need to bring a motorcycle when we move. So far I’ve got her convinced to bring one of the six in the garage, something a little smaller than the H.D. but after a few months of visiting there I still have some doubts about the overall sanity of my decision!

  16. Paul Thompson says

    A big Bike would be a pleasure to ride here as they are high on the road pecking order. You seldom here of an accident involving them as the riders tend to know how to properly. This article is directed at the mosquito bike that doesn’t have the power to get out of harm’s way. If you’re thinking about a big bike, I’d do it.

  17. John Power says

    Paul, nice to see some “real” bikes there(BSA)! I was in a similar situation coming here. I had a BM 650 Fundura. OK, so it’s not a real BM(Rotax engine) but it was fun. I wanted to bring it with me, but at the time, four and a half years ago, I was 67 yrs old. I had to realise that my reactions are no longer what they were, especially, like you said, considering the drivers/riders here! It just amazes me how there is not MORE accidents here. They come out of side roads, onto main roads, without even a glance!One problem here is that there is usually no road markings(waste of paint, I know), and another, there seems to be no set rules. No right of way rule. Back home, we have a small booklet, “The Highway Code” It sets out EVERYTHING. So you know exactly where you stand in ant altercation. There is so little respect for fellow road users here. If I see you wanting to make a turn here, I will touch my brakes. We are all in the same situation, but a Filipino will touch his horn because it will cost him a few seconds! The strange thing is, they are the most laid back people, when not in their cars!!!

    • Paul Thompson says

      John Power;
      If you want to have fun while driving, stop at the side road and let someone in front of you. They know it must be a trick and won’t move.
      I’ve written before about driving on the Subic Freeport, where the police can’t be bribed and are proud of their job. The people coming in from Manila are in total fear as they have no concept of right of way at 4 way stop signs. They freeze in place until local points to them to tell them it’s their turn.
      We gave up riding bikes for the same reason.

  18. says

    Paul – You didn’t mention it, and I didn’t see a picture of it, but at some point during your bike riding days when your hair was still tied in a pony tail, did you own a customized Harley with ape hangers 24 inches high? I tried to picture you blazing across the California desert in one of those, blankets in the back saddle, and I see a dead ringer for Peter Fonda in the movie “Easy Rider”. LOL

    Please tell me you DID have a chopper with high handle bars, so as not to shatter the macho image I have of you when you were young and wild and free, it’s just that your ex threw the pictures out when she took your house. :)

    • Paul Thompson says

      Both my Harley’s were semi-chopped, the reason being that any long trip on a full chopper will cause you to stop every 12.5 miles to fill that tiny tank and give your spine a break.
      We were on a run to Key West on A1A; my buddy was riding a 1200 CC Honda fully dressed. He asked if he could take my Harley for awhile, At Homestead Key he wanted to switch back but I was enjoying the ride so much I was on Key Largo before he found me.

  19. Richard says

    I had a 1960 was without doubt one of my most fav cars I have ever was a pain in the neck to get parts for in rural up-state ny and I ended up buying one that was rusted out wreck for just to have parts…I had friends at the time that had muscle cars..they could make smoke but i could drift..i thought i had invented it… was like straping your ride on your ass…:)

    • Paul Thompson says

      I only wish it had a third seat, so I didn’t have to decide which to bring with me, my girlfriend or the British mechanic.
      Didn’t you love those Lucas electronics? Lucas; better known as, the prince of darkness. (lol)

    • John Power says

      Richard, I can’t remember. I’m having a “senior moment” Please remind me. The “Bugeye” Was that an Austin Healy?

    • Jade says

      After the subunit hah stupid spellchecker SUZUKI dammitt.
      I bought a ’64 MGB in ’70
      It was part of me, skinny tires, drifting was easy to do.
      Worked at a hospital as I drifted into a parking spot the administrator took me to task for my driving skill.
      I never convinced him that I knew what I was doing…

  20. Richard says

    To tell you the truth i never had much problem with the electrics..well nothing a gum wrapper around a fuse couldn’t fix. or some inventive cobbing .I did however have trouble with the brakes the whole time I owned it. I never did figure out how to stop the wheel cylinders from leaking fluid..i was constantly topping off the master cylinder. I must have rebuilt brake cylinders 20 times..i never could find the proper sized rubber cups and seals and my junkers were shot. Later I came to the conclusion the guy that owned it before me was a little too aggresive with the hone…It sure was a fun car tho..even working on it when the black flies were eating at me late nights out in the yard…I wish I had in now..even for a couple days..:) That “center of gravity” about 6 inches below your butt is something that is hard to forget…

      • Paul Thompson says

        John Power;
        I had both a 240 and 260Z from Japan, and they never broke down, that could be the reason.

    • Jade says

      Hey Richard,
      I’ve been through the the whole thing with Lucas.
      The problem was that the fuse clips were pure soft copper not springy brass.
      Great conductor.
      Lousy retainer.
      Working in the electronics trade for nearly 50 years.
      Now let me me tell you about my miserable BMW…

    • Jade says

      Back to English sports car brakes…
      That stupid MGB had a leak from the differential into the right rear brake area.
      It destroyed the slave cylinder rubber parts.
      Twice I had complete brake failure.
      Once I had to pull into the grassy median.
      Second time I ran into the wall of a building by the parking lot.
      That time I bought a pipe plug and survived on 3 brakes until I sold it
      Rebuilt the the gasket seal many times.
      Great car though…

      • Jade says

        Sold it and then I bought a ’60 MGA.
        Had it for 25 eventful years.
        Ex sister in law said it had no ‘frills’.
        I agree…

        • Jade says

          No frills…
          Cable for inside door opening.
          No side windows.
          Cable for starter manual solenoid.
          Even a hand crank for starting.
          The front bumper had a hole for inserting it.

          Take that you eco focused politicos.

          And it got 30+ mpg.

          Wish I still had it.

          Divorce took it away.

  21. says

    I wish I still had my 59 MG. i bought it used for $600. The paint was run-of-the-mill off-white in color, but when I was done customizing it California-style, it was a rare sight to behold around the DC tri-state metropolitan region (Northern VA, Southern MD, and DC). I drove it to work to Capitol Hill everyday, flying a black flag in a show of solidarity with the youth of the time who were protesting the Vietnam War. The MG was a rare sight in the DC area in those days, firstly because it had wide rims made of 8 stock MG wheels split in half and welded together. The vertical slats of the front grille were cut out to accomodate two huge yellow halogen fog lamps. It was painted racing orange. I didn’t do anything to the engine, as it was fast enough for me. From the rear view mirror, the MG must have looked like a tarantula, wide and low slung coming up fast behind you with fog lamps on, and you’d want to pull to the side of the road and let it pass to see what kind of car it was. LOL

    • Paul Thompson says

      Washington DC in the winter, how was that heater in your MG? I had my Bug Eye in Florida and California and that’s where they are fun to drive. I wanted a MG Midget, but if you owned one today the “PC” Police would make you change the name to MG Little Person.(lol) How insensitive we were back then, In Catholic School the nuns made me ink the (Dare I say it?) the blackboards.

  22. says

    Years before the MG, I also had a 55 Austin Healey when I lived in the Monterey Peninsula. It had a tendency to fishtail at high speed, and it did do just that on my way to school one day on Highway One near the Fort Ord Reservation. Once it started fishtailing it was hard to control, and you try to remember to steer toward the direction of the skid. Problem was I didn’t learn that maneuver back then until I moved to the East Coast. I didn’t think it was taught at driver’s ed in Monterey as it hardly ever snowed there. But I do remember turning your front wheel toward the curb when parked at a steep inclune in hilly San Francisco.

    I remember to this day the smell of old fashion leather of the those British sports cars, the Austin Healey, the Triumph, the MG. Never liked the bug-eyed Sprite, though.

    • Paul Thompson says

      Turn the wheels in when parking downhill and out when parking uphill. Didn’t like the Bug Eye???

      • says

        Paul – I don’t remember turning on the heater of the MG in Monterey. There were some very cold mornings going to school, but by about 10 it was already pretty warm. I remember, I had a lap cover also.

      • says

        Paul – Because of the steep hills in San Francisco, everyone who tests for a driver’s license in California had to know that rule. I guess I was turned off by the Bug Eye because when I saw a really tall person driving the Bug Eye with the top down. Half his body was above the windshield. LOL

          • says

            LOL Paul, the guy was at least 6ft. With the top down, his upper body from the shoulders up was above the top of the windshield. The sight of him driving the tiny car around Monterey was so comical. Imagine a toy car with foot pedals, thats what the bug eye reminded me of with the tall guy driving it, and he thought he was cool.

            If the car rolled over, I guess his head and neck would have served as the roll bar. LOL

            • John Power says

              Yes John, but even Bentlys are owned by VW now!
              I love to see the Filipino biking, while smoking a cigarette, or holding an umbrella!
              One last thing….it’s amusing(not funny!) to see how many comments there are here, “divorce took that”!!!

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