Putahe Idol – The Results!!!


My post last week on the Top 10 Pinoy/Filipino Dishes main courses (savory dishes/putahes) got an overwhelming response from readers. The article got over 10,000 page hits and encouraged over 130 readers to leave a comment with their list of 10 or more Pinoy favorites. Thank you for that fantastic response. I have always felt that 98+% of Marketmanila’s readers have never left a comment and this exercise certainly confirmed that; but that post also lured about 30+ lurkers into making their first comments ever on the site. Comments add a lot to the discussion and I strongly encourage everyone to participate now and then. I was so overwhelmed with the 1200+ “votes” received that I had to ask an assistant to collate them all and put them on a simple spreadsheet for me. It was rather time consuming task as folks used up to a dozen different words or phrases for say, adobo or sinigang and we had to make a judgment call on several suggestions listed. We also had to eliminate double votes, side dishes, condiments, sweets, etc. to “clean up” the data a bit. It wasn’t very scientific and there is a little bit of fudge factor involved. But at any rate, I was just aiming for a rough feel and we definitely got that. After reviewing all the responses, the results are both expected and unexpected — read on and enjoy!

The Range

Of all the savory dishes mentioned (all desserts were eliminated from the analysis), the total list after adjusting for similar groups of dishes came out to roughly 60-70 dishes ranging from bangus, sisig, lumpia, cripy pata, morcon, inihaw na isda, kuhol, talangka, pako, bringhe and bopis. I would imagine that this list of 70 pinoy or adopted pinoy dishes is a good representation of what most Filipinos consider to be the best that our national cuisine has to offer. I would say that I am familiar with, or have eaten in the past year, at least 70% of the dishes on this list. Of this long list, only the Top 30 dishes received more than 10 or so votes out of a maximum of about 120 votes which means that a minimum of 8% or 1 in 12 voters included it in their list of Top 10 dishes. The 40 less voted on dishes had some surprises… in the lower 40 were “pinoy spaghetti” and pork barbeque (two mainstays of any large pinoy gathering and yet they did not get mentioned that often in the survey), adobong kangkong (why?), binagoongang baboy, sinangag or fried rice with garlic, sinampalukang manok and a whole list of what I would call other adapted/adopted dishes — chorizo, tocino, pritong lumpia, lumpia shanghai, morcon, afritada, embutido, paella and menudo.

The countdown from 30 to 11:

30. Ginataang Kalabasa — just made it into the Top 30, yum, I love this dish.
29. Tapa — yikes, it’s a bit far down on the list for me…what would breakfast be like without this and some spicy vinegar?
28. Paksiw na Lechon — Oh no, I like this dish better than lechon itself. I would have thought this would be much higher up the rankings!
27. Manggang Hilaw with Bagoong — Love it.
26. Lechon Kawali — Definitely.
25. Pancit Palabok — if lumped together with Pancit luglug would have been in the Top 10.
24. Kinilaw — probably one of our oldest and most representative local dishes.
23. Pritong Galunggong — I posted this one just recently…
22. Longganisa — Definitely, with gaseous burps and all.
21. Bihon Guisado — Merienda food, lots of kalamansi please!
20. Beef Caldereta — Gotta make me some of this, have never cooked it myself before.
19. Chicken Inasal — Yes, I see why this is up there in the rankings.
18. Beef Bulalo/Nilagang Baka — I know these are different dishes but as a grouped theme of boiled beef soups, this was up there in votes…
17. Rellenong Bangus — Hmm, I’m not a big fan, but many others obviously are.
16. Tortang Talong — Definitely gotta have this. And with lots of ketchup please.
15. Bistek Tagalog — A personal favorite…I thought this would be higher up in the rankings.
14. Laing — Yes.
13. Pancit Luglug — Ditto, yes.
12. Sisig — I can see why, but I am not a converted fan yet.
11. Dinuguan — Ugh. I have a childhood phobia and I just have to get over it and cook this dish to perfection myself in the coming months!

And finally, The Putahe Top 10!!!

10. Tinola — another satisfying comfort food that is a complete meal in a bowl with protein, vegetables, fruit, soup and flavor — lots of rice, patis and kalamansi on the side, please.
9. Monggo — Definitely a top 10 though possibly one of those highly adapted/adopted dishes from the Chinese Mainland. Nutritious, delicious and economical.
8. Lumpiang Sariwa — Yes. Ever since those Americans pushed all those coconut plantations we had to figure out how to use palm hearts and this is a brilliant manifestation. Some family friends send over this stuff at Christmas after a long, slow simmer in pork lard and it is stunningly delicious and stunningly deadly on the cholesterol meter. I like the accompanying sauce, but oddly, keep my chopped peanuts on the side.
7. Inihaw na Isda — Yes. This was a difficult one to lump into one as voters sometimes specified the fish, but suffice it to say that grilled fresh fish is on most folks Top 10 list.
6. Daing or Pritong Bangus — Yes. And Marketman says you MUST have a fish pan to go with that, Mylai Dimaculangan’s aside…heehee.
5. Pinakbet — Yes. Yes. Yes. An Asian ratatouille? No. A native vegetable dish that can range from horrific to sublime depending on how it is cooked. Acquired taste because of the bagoong, I think. This is definitely in my personal top 10.
4. Lechon — No wonder this is the stuff of Fiesta dreams, folks really do place it in a super high regard. I personally would have it lower on the list. Though I LOVE good lechon skin and ribs, I just don’t think it should be that high up in the rankings…
3. Kare-kare — A surprise for me, but nearly 50% of all voters had this on their list and it garnered the third largest number of votes. I was never a big fan and perhaps I always got bum examples of this dish so after seeing these results I read up on kare-kare and spent nearly four hours trying to make the ultimate version (in a post up next!).
2. Adobo — Duhh. Nearly 60% of all respondents had this on their list of Top 10 Pinoy Putahes. No wonder they say it should be the national dish. And yes, I believe it existed before the Spaniards got here and they named it so due to similarities with dishes in Mexico/Spain.
1. Sinigang — Sinigang na Baboy was the third largest individually voted dish. However, 4 Sinigang versions were in the top 13 dishes so if you grouped them as a “Sinigang” option, this was far and away the absolute favorite. Approximately 80% of all respondents had one or more types of Sinigang in their Top 10 list. I totally agree with this choice. Whether pork, beef, prawn, shrimp, bangus, talakitok or other protein with the sour broth of tamarind (or guava, kamias, etc.) and fresh vegetables, this is truly the number 1 Pinoy dish in my book.

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41 Responses

  1. I think the top 10 came out about right… those are the dishes you would typically always see in Pinoy cafeterias/carinderias, whether at home or abroad.

    As for “pinoy spaghetti”… yuck. LOL

  2. This is brilliant, MM! Stuff of enthusiastic Filipino conversations and posts. :-) And it’s just what I need as I plan this week’s menus and write up my grocery list. The special occasion dishes like lechon and kare-kare will have to wait another time, though.

    Caldereta was my mother-in-law’s specialty. I tried making it with chicken liver pate with port, no less, from Trader Joe’s but it was too mild a substitute for the pork liver most traditional recipes call for. Looking forward to your take on it.

  3. Now that the data are in, time for the analysis! :)

    For one thing, we like our food wet, with a broth/sauce. #1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 18, and 20 are pretty saucy, soupy if I’m not mistaken. 60% of the top 20.

    Oil factor

    We like our dishes quite oily? Of the top 20 I would call 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20 are oily. (again 60%) If I was stricter meaning any kind of frying or fatty meat was involved then 1, 9, 11 and 18 would be included. (bumped up to 80%). :)

    The preponderance of all this oil make me really appreciate it when this site includes some ‘balancing’ dishes of salads, non-oily vegetables, fruit, seafood.

    And speaking of seafood

    1, 6, 7, and 17 are seafood (20%)
    1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, 15, 18, 19, 20 are meat (55%)

    Correct me if any of the numbers are wrong. As MM also says it’s hard to classify things into categories.

  4. Wow!!!

    MM, I’m so excited, especially now that you will make a post on kare-kare, though I know how to do this, I can’t wait to read your version/insights on how to make a very good one. =)

    Also, I am looking forward to beef caldereta, and also dinuguan. =) Don’t worry I am more than willing to wait, knowing that you will definitely do your best to experiment/perfect the version of the dish that you will post here.

    Oh, before I forgot, I had a blast reading about the fish pan again and our ‘friendly’ visitor, one named Mylai. Hahahahah!!!

    Lastly, If I will vote for my top ten list of articles posted on your site, as of now, this post is my number 1. Yehey!!!!!

    Very good work Marketman!!! Two thumbs up!!!

  5. All I can say is..WOW!! MM, you did a hell of a job gathering all these people, and all these data. It may not be scientific, but the results can’t be anymore accurate. Anyone who dares argue with these results can not be a genuine Pinoy.

    I am a big fan of your site, MM, so big that I had to show it to my wife and made a believer out of her too. Now she reads your blog regularly, and she doesn’t even understand what a blog is really all about.

    I’m sure you’re a very smart, well mannered, very personable man, and I’d like to someday meet you and your friends and family, over some finely brewed coffee. Or better yet, in a really good authentic Filipino restaurant. I’ll extend you the invite next time I’m in the country.

    You can not imagine how much knowledge, and great service (and entertainment, too) you have imparted to your readers. Please keep up this incredible site. It’s one of the best, if not the best, pinoy sites I’ve visited.

  6. Have you ever seen the show on Lifetime network, Tyler’s Ultimate? That might be something to look forward to, MM’s Ultimate. Each week, a new Filipino dish, researched, tested to perfection, with accompanying historical and anthropological essays on its origins.
    Now, how will you tweak the Pinoy Spaghetti though?

  7. Yeah, after reading the other responses I would have to add all the others to my lists of favorites. There’s just too many to add.

  8. i’m sorry i wasn’t able to post my own preferences during the poll. it was one of those toxic times at work, although i did read the early posts but never got around to making one.

    anyway, i agree with most of the results although as a visayan, i am a bit disappointed at the low ranking of the kinilaw. also that paksiw na isda is nowhere to be found. it is the perfect complement to the our dry “adobong baboy”. ditto the side dishes/appetizers such as guinamos, sisi, tihi-tihi et al.i take it “sinigang” would also encompass the visayan “tinola”?

    but over-all, a great representation of typical filipino cuisine. congrats!

  9. I read the Inquirer article about making Filipino Food go international. The Kulinarya project I think they called it. https://news.inq7.net/lifestyle/index.php?index=2&story_id=74910&col=20

    I think you should be included in this project. To give them additional VALUABLE information. The laymans viewpoint at least. They may be surprised with the information that you have. It may save them survey time and lots of money.

    If they won’t include you, just tell them to read your blog instead. hihihihi.

  10. i agree with fried neurons: pinoy spaghetti? great for the kids but yucky for adults.

    i’m hoping i’m wrong about this erleen, but the project to promote filipino food internationally might be a bit iffy. Unlike thai, Indian, japanese, korean, malaysian etc etc cooking, our food lacks the herbs, chilli heat, and other exotic spices that appeal to the typical western person. Like hawaiian food is to the hawaiians, our food tastes great to us because we grew up with it.

    Considering that there are around 8 million filipinos overseas, the fact that there are so few pinoy restaurants in major cities in this day and age (other than the turo turo variety that attract only homesick kababayans) is an indication that our food is relatively uninteresting to anglos and other europeans.

    I have heard well-travelled expats/ old Asia hands say that of all the cuisines of SE Asia, ours is the least appealing.

    Frankly, i can see their point. Hard to compare our food to the explosion of flavours in a thai dish, for example, or the complex fire of a Singaporean fish head curry…

    Of course since i am pinoy, my top ‘stranded-on-a-desert island-then-rescued-half starving’ dish would have to be adobo and mongo, or sinigang na baboy w tons of rice and patis w chilli, or inihaw na baboy, or kare kare, or bistek…

    So this goes back to the orig premise: in general (there are exceptions of course), one has to be pinoy to love pinoy food.

    But i truly hope whoever is planning this international marketing of philippine cuisine does a great job and figures out a way to sell our food to the world.

    oh, choy’s right, i forgot to include super fresh tasting visayan kinilaw on my list!

  11. What a great idea this list was, MM!!! It was fun reading each entry, and now, reading the results and analysis. I would say the results are pretty accurate and would probably more or less hold up even if you conducted a larger, more scientific survey. And I am *not* at all surprised that none of my own Top 10 made it to the list — not even in the Top 20! As I’ve said, traditional Pinoy food just doesn’t excite me. But the fact that I even managed to come up with more than 10 dishes I love was a revelation I thank you for! :-)

  12. With regards to promoting Filipino cuisine to non-Filipinos, I think that we fail – and fail miserably – because we (and by this I mean Pinoy restaurant owners abroad) are too focused on making every dish taste authentic to the detriment of everything else. Nobody adjusts the recipes (even just slightly) to appeal to a wider audience and nobody pays any attention to presentation.

    Walk into any mom-and-pop Pinoy restaurant in the US and it is most likely gonna be cafeteria style. And therein lies the problem. I mean let’s face it – adobo, sinigang, caldereta, etc. may all taste good, but none of them LOOK good. Especially not if they’re sitting in giant warming trays, swimming in oil and utterly monochromatic. The dishes don’t look appealing enough to invite the unfamiliar to try them.

    If Filipino food is going to succeed as a popular “ethnic” cuisine in other countries, or more specifically the West, I think that the paradigm we need to follow is that of Cendrillon, a wonderful Filipino-owned restaurant in SoHo in NYC (45 Mercer Street). The Filipino dishes they serve are all tweaked slightly to appeal to non-Filipino tongues. The presentation is impeccable. The ambience is nice and cozy.

    A lot of Pinoys I talk to say they don’t like Cendrillon because “it’s not real Pinoy food”. But that’s exactly the point. The target market is different, because it’s not focused with laser precision on Filipinos only. The goal is to expand the market. And to do that, sometimes you have to tweak.

    Ok, sorry for the tangent. :)

  13. I agree, now that we’ve done the dish poll.. let’s have a Filipino dessert poll! I’ve got a list ready for that.

  14. Well done, MM! Thank you for sharing taking the time to tally the results and share them with us. Very interesting, I must say. And I’m not surprised that the one dish I don’t care much for (sinigang) is number one. Almost everyone I know loves it.

    Half of what I submitted were of the sweet variety, for kakanins, merienda and dessert. I’m not a big Filipino food fan, but i am a HUGE Filipino dessert fan! :)

  15. ‘wasn’t surprised with sinigang on the top of the list! Yes! And I’m thrilled. This is one unique Filipino dish that should be seriously considered in the international dish! Is this our national dish OR one of them??? Or do we have one?…not diniguan! Didn’t mean to offend dinuguan lovers. The French use blood to make their boudins (“buden”)blood sausages. And you know what, they make use of every part of the whole pig like we do. I thought these people are snobbish, but they have a delicacy made from pigs feet, are very much crazy about cervelle (brains, eeeuww!)and other stuff that make me wince at the bucher shops if not nausea, aaaagh.

  16. Excellent! I agree with the votes! Sinigang will always be on top of any self-respecting Pinoy food list. Good job Marketman. ;-)

  17. In behalf of Marketman, thank you everyone for your comments. Marketman is currently up to his eyeballs in pili, peanuts and cacao in the plains of the Bicol Region and has no internet access. He will be back in two days with lots of stories about food, produce and delicacies from the land of laing, sili and coconuts.

    Mrs. Marketman

  18. Hi everyone, just snuck 10 minutes on the hotel computer here in Bicol…had an incredible day…ate fresh pili nut straight off of the tree and think it rivals the finest macadamias, had my first taste of ripe cacao pulp that surrounds the beans and was stunned by it, drank a coconut and ate its meat 30 seconds after chopping it of the tree and hit two markets to boot… and that was in between doing my work down here… wait till I get a chance to post about this place, spectacular day!!! Thanks for all the comments on this post!

  19. Wow..5 out of my top 10 got in!
    Oh,Mr. Marketman have a childhood phobia for Dinuguan…so do I!! ahaha..I will be looking forward for your Dinuguan version,maybe I can get over it as well. :D
    Btw, I’m a bit surprised that you haven’t tried cooking Caldereta. Have you heard of the famous Batangas Caldereta? It usually uses “kambing” but beef is great too. My mom is from Batangas, they used to own a restaurant in Batangas City offering this as one of their dishes. If you’re interested,I wouldn’t mind sharing it to you.

  20. #17 Rellenong bangus, no surprise to me either. It makes me wonder though why it would have quite the following even among the Filipinos here inspite of it’s minute labour intensiveness which when applied to the frozen milkfish of doubtful provenance that is the only kind available here results in a dish of dubious quality, simply not worth the bother. Compared with Tortang Alimasag in its own carapace which is not as technically demanding to pull off but nevertheless can be all at once, tasty, stylish and luxurious, a veritable Filipino Lobster Thermidor.

    Slightly let down by the absence of Pochero/Cocido with grilled egg plant and diced squash vinaigrette which is always a close call alternate for Kare-kare in my book for special Sunday lunch treat.

  21. Fried neurons, i agree with you on Cendrillon’s approach 100%. Unfortunately, the restaurant got a horrible review in the latest TimeOut NY restaurant guidebook. They panned both the food and the indifferent service, and the review was written by kanos who had experience with and previously enjoyed Cendrillon. They did end the review somewhat positively by saying they hoped the cook was just having an off day, or something to that effect.

    Another pinoy restaurant in the West that is doing something similar (according to my sis-in-law) is Rambutan (great name) in Chicago. I’m definitely going to check it out if i’m ever in that city– although as of now i have no reason to go there…

  22. Tulip, yes I am interested in a Kaldereta recipe if your mom is willing to share it. Apicio, I love tortang alimasag which should be easy to do in the West if crab meat is sold already out of the shell…it was one of my mom’s favorites as well. Hmmm, gotta make that sometime soon. I agree Pochero or cocido would be in my Top 10.

  23. apicio, you’re certainly right about cocido. what a great family lunch. it’s a Sunday mainstay at my mother’s house.

    But i don’t think it’s an alternative to kare kare. Totally different vibe. Spanish mestizo flavours/olive oil/chorizo vs. weird but delicious, 100% pinoy, peanutty sauce thing with lots of steaming white rice and that lovely, smelly, sauteed, dark brown bagoong. (can’t stand the luminous pink kind).

  24. Since more than a few has mentioned Cendrillon, I would like to point out that when Frank Bruni of the NY Times (whose previous reviews have met with a lot of resistance from members of a certain web food forum) awarded it three stars early last year, one of the most vocal and vehement exceptions was expressed by somebody who has not visited and experienced the place and sad to say, is also of Filiipino extraction evidently with a tenuous grasp and deficient knowledge of Filipino food basing on his other posts about it.

    Btw, I enjoyed Dinuguan as a young person so I would qualify my recent mild queasiness about it as “adult on set”. But you have to admit Gonzo though that both of them are our classic Sunday lunch fares.

  25. well, it’s just that kare kare can be found in any corporate building canteen in makati (ok, admittedly a bad version). But yes , a well-made, no holds barred, all the right meats, fresh not overcooked veggies kare kare can be a spectacular sunday dish.

    as for dinuguan, i hate to say it again but our family cook makes a magnificent, mindblowing ‘chicken dinuguan’. my mouth waters just thinking about it. when you think that brits eat ‘black pudding’, and spanish people eat ‘morcilla’ and the french eat ‘boudin’ and so on and so forth, well then dinuguan is simply the soupy/stew-y version of these dishes and in my opinion is more than worthy of international exposure. Properly presented of course.

  26. Gonzo, I hope you don’t mean Dinuguang Manok sa Gata’. I’ve always thought that I am one of the remaining few who still knows how to make this dish. I learned it from my now 82 year old mother when I was still a youngster, and I don’t know of anyone who knows how to make the dish, not even among my family. I don’t cook the dish as often as I would like to cause I’ve always preferred “native” chicken which is almost impossible to find where I’m at. And besides, the various stages of preparation pretty much takes most of my appetite away.

    Apicio, now that you’ve brought it up… I too am surprised by the absence of Pochero. Definitely a Top 10.

  27. My mother-in-law is from Laguna and cooks Dinuguan sa Gata but she usually uses carabao meat. They say it tastes better than using pork. She also adds mustasa to it. My husband likes it more than the traditional Dinuguan.

    I cannot say I like it but it takes some getting used to because it’s too rich for my taste and I do not like mustasa.

    My mom also cooks a different version of dinuguan. She adds tahure and papaya slices. She calls it luto-sa-itik. though not necessarilly cooked with just duck. Can be cooked with pork ribs or chicken.

  28. One of mother’s favorite food stories is her pregnancy with my second sister that was accompanied by an importunate craving for dinuguan. Not just any old dinuguan, mind you, not the dinuguan prepared by the cook at home nor the one expertly prepared by the neighbour who made a living out of it. It had to be the diniguan cooked by the butcher’s wife, sold in the market and bearing an unmistakable soupçon of quaint barnyard aroma. Yuck.

  29. Maybe you should submit this list to the 4 women who are trying to “standardize” Filipino cuisine.

  30. Hi MM, am currently in san francisco, agusan del sur, and what did i eat the day i arrived – a very mild form of sinigang (tinolang isda,-whhich is more sinigang that tinola, soured only by tomatoes), and since i arrived the day after the fiesta, there was also fried leftover lechon. congratulations on the top foods list, although i think if there were more bisaya respondents, kare-kare may not have made it to No. 3 since this is generally tagalog fare that has not quite taken a hold on most visayan households. sa ilocanos ba, me kare-kare? breakfast with my hosts this morning was an excellent nilagang lechon with unripe langka – somewhat like the ilonggo KBL (kadyos, baboy, langka), but with a “deeper” flavor(yun ba ang “umami”). sarap din. this was paired with a very fresh kinilaw na twakang (very large dilis)…felt like sleepng right after breakfast! the food here more than makes up for the bad roads coming here..

  31. Here’s a different take on whether or not Filipino food can go mainstream at least in the US…

    There’s a new cookbook (Fine Filipino Food) by Karen Hulene Bartell, published in New York and sold by the big booksellers. Here’s a quote from the dust jacket: “Karen Hulene Bartell and her husband lived in Taiwan for five years, where she first learned to prepare the incomparable food of the Philippines. Spending time in Boracay, Philippines, reinforced her fondness for the country’s cuisine.”

    It’s obviously a labor of love—well-researched and respectfully written, peppered with Filipino terms and background information.

    Everytime we’ve served Filipino food to Americans, they’ve raved about it while going back for seconds. I have heard Americans from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds swear by the adobo, sinigang, barbecue, lumpia, pancit, etc. that friends and co-workers have fed to them. I even met a young white guy in LA whose idea of the best eating is loading up at one of those turo-turo places in Panorama City, CA, not far from North Hollywood.

    Sometimes, it’s how we think about ourselves, our culture and food that influences other peoples’ responses to it. Filipino food cooked in America, where luckily we don’t have to skimp on ingredients, can stand toe-to-toe with Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean. And it sure is way better than the cardboard-tasting fastfood most Americans get to eat on any given day.


    Most of our ulam is saucy and soupy precisely because the non-negotiable part of the menu is rice!

  32. Hi MM, since sinigang emerged as the no. 1 favorite dish in your survey, I wonder how many out there eat their sinigang with OKIAM? This is the fermented red bean curd imported from China
    that comes in small square bottle with a red cap.
    I always eat my seafood sinigang with OKIAM as my sawsawan instead of patis or toyo, influenced by my mother who in turn got it from her mother. And now my daughter eats sinigang the same way.

  33. whoa! im so glad i got 7 out of 10!

    just a thought about monggo coming from mainland china… so far, here in beijing (and northern china as our interpreter comes from urumqi), i’ve encountered monggo always cooked sweet, more like dessert.

  34. Speaking of Cendrillon form NYC, a galary owner friend of ours gave good review on this restaurant. She had used their catering services in recent parties. But sad to say, when I tried out the place, it was so watered down that the dish I ordered did not taste like (the real thing) only slightly. Pretty though, and what is up with “cendrillon”? I remember when I first came to the US, Nora Daza opened a restaurant in Wash. DC and named it “Auberge Philippine”. Why do they insist on going French, we were never was French anything. What gives, what is wrong with
    filipino sounding moniker. BE PROUD.

  35. Hi! I don’t know if this is the right place but I was wondering, could anyone suggest simple side dishes that would go well with rellenong bangus as the main dish? I only know how to cook pasta dishes and I don’t think any pasta dish would go well with relleno.

    Thanks in advance for any advice.

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