Learning Korean, The Saga That Is My Life

Korean Is A Beautiful Language

I’m not gonna lie. I didn’t always like Korean. I thought it sounded whiny the first time I heard it. I was teaching ESL to Korean nationals then, in a Korean-owned company with Korean supervisors who speak Korean amongst themselves and who rarely, and I mean rarely, speak English to any of us. So, I pretty much heard it all the time. It was ear-grating and I admit it was mostly because I hated the sound of whining.

So, even though they fed us all these Korean materials and made us memorize Korean phrases we could use for beginner students, I’ve never been interested in truly learning the language. In fact, I threw all those materials away when I left the industry and moved on to writing.

My opinion of the language didn’t change until many years later, and only gradually, starting from My Love From The Starthe first Korean drama I liked well enough to search on the Net and watch with English subtitles on (In the Philippines, Korean dramas are dubbed in our language).

The Hallyu wave reached the Philippines long before MLFTS but I’m kind of a hermit when it comes to dramas on TV. I prefer zero to little contact because the idea of sleep always appeals better.

But it wasn’t really until I heard this talented Korean singer– who will remain unnamed– singing Korean songs in a beautiful, sexy voice that I also heard the beauty– and yeah, the sexiness of the language. It was what made me want to learn the language.

That and the frustration of watching badly subtitled dramas and uncaptioned YouTube videos of Korean stars I’m crushing on. (Hello Kim Nam-Gil aka Bidam and Gong Yoo!) And yes, it’s also because of my SongSong loves.

The point is, even though I still hear that tiny bit of kvetch, somehow, that grating quality is gone. Now, when I hear a man speaking Korean, I hear sexy. When I hear a woman speaking the language, I hear sweet.

It sounds innocent like a child. It sounds honest and unpretentious. It doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t. It’s just is. And, it’s either you like it or you don’t, but it doesn’t care either way.

And though it’s difficult to learn, Hangul itself is simple. It does not have dreams of being grand nor does it impose the same grandiosity on you. What you see is really what you get. Except for words beginning with vowels, there aren’t any words where there are alphabets you’re not supposed to articulate (yes, I’m talking about you denouement, pterodactyl, indict, and you too, receipt).

My Korean-learning journey is fraught with hardships and time challenges. I’m taking online lessons when I could but I’m still very far from my goal. I hope to someday really carry a conversation in Korean, watch Korean films and dramas without subtitles, and maybe translate professionally. For now, though, I’d be totally content to read just a little bit faster than five words per minute. And no, I’m not exaggerating.



Inspirational Thoughts, Life's Musings, Spiritual, The Saga That Is My Life

I’ve Mellowed

This realization struck me as I was walking past an area in our village where I witnessed an old man being hit by a passing car about a week past.

When I was young, seeing an elderly in need almost always send me into depression for weeks. I would obsess about things like family taking care of him or if he even has one. I would harbor regrets that I couldn’t do more than offer prayers. The experience would always leave me feeling dejected.

But remembering the old man who was hit by the car didn’t make me feel miserable. Yes, I’ve learned how to handle my feelings better through the years, but this time it was different.

These days, when I see elderly people in difficulty, I don’t get so down in the mouth. Yes, I still get sad about their plight in life but the feelings have mellowed.

You could say I’ve mellowed because I have aged and you would be right. Although more than the accumulation of life experiences, it is probably more because of a particular experience, and the resulting wisdom I’ve gained and lessons I’ve learned from it.

I don’t think life could throw me anything worse than what it already has. I’ve been through the worst that could possibly happen in my life. And I’ve survived.

Truly, I do feel that there is nothing life can give me that I can’t take on. Bring it on. I fear nothing in this life anymore.

And because of what I’ve been through, really, everything is small stuff.



Thus it’s sometimes very hard for me to be empathetic with people who whine about the smallest things.

But you know what else? I have developed a strong awareness of what was once a simple understanding that we’re all just passing through in this life. What I have always known about the world not being our real home took on a new meaning for me. The life as we know here on earth isn’t everything.

So, nowadays, when I see elderly people in need, I don’t get depressed. I know that the real person is actually very blessed. As am I and as are you.

I still send them off with prayers in my heart, but I don’t go all glum after. I know that everything will work out for them in the end. With our without their conscious knowledge.

I know that there is a Director and we’re all portraying our roles beautifully on a stage we call life. Everything will be OK when the final curtain falls because this play isn’t our real life.

So you can say I’ve mellowed because of life experiences, but I’d say they’ve only made me stronger. The knowledge that we are, at the core, spirit beings living life here on earth is what made me at peace with whatever I see people are up against with.

And so I’ve mellowed. More than a decade earlier than studies and research said people will normally do because of biology and experience. But yes, I have.

Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know. But this student of life will go on, bearing in mind that “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”, and that it is all part of our purpose in life and the Big Boss Upstairs’ master plan.

Review, You Should Try It!

Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham

Rogue LawyerRogue Lawyer by John Grisham

Written in the first person, the book veers off Mr. Grisham’s usual novels revolving around one main legal case. In this page-turner, there is one protagonist but several different lawsuits happening linearly. Don’t read if you can’t finish. It’s one of those novels you decide at three in the morning with few hours to spare for sleep, is worth sleepwalking for at work the next day.

View all my reviews

Review, Spiritual

Dying To Be Me Book Review

Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True HealingDying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing by Anita Moorjani
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Even though I don’t agree with her on zero punishment and the non-existence of hell, I know that things don’t have to make sense for it to be true– curiously, it did make logical sense on some level. I get that absolute truth is something I’ll never know until my time here on earth is finished, probably. But, I also get her message that it isn’t having the sense of certainty but being true to your real self that is more important in this life.
Wisdom-filled, especially towards the end. I found validation for many of my beliefs, but now I just don’t believe them, I know them to be true.
This is a good read for those looking to reconcile the power of the mind (law of attraction, quantum physics or whatever you call it) and God. Though she hardly talked of the latter, the dots are there, you just have to connect them.

View all my reviews

The Saga That Is My Life, You Should Try It!

Getting NSO Birth Certificate From SM

Need a PSA or an NSO Birth Certificate? You can get it from any SM branch near you.

With the new bureaucratic rule of six-month-period document validity in most government offices, it’s a wonder we still see trees standing in the country. Gone were the days when we hold on to our single copy of yellowing and falling apart birth certificate we only take out gingerly from its hiding place during the start of school year. Oh well, I guess that’s progress.

So, yeah. If you don’t want or don’t have the time to go to NSO main office in Quezon City, getting a PSA or an NSO birth certificate from SM is your next best option. I used to order online and pat myself in the back for saving time and money that way. That was before I learned that you can get NSO birth certificate from SM Malls.

So, you just

  1. go to their Business Center (this is usually located inside the Department Store, but I’ve seen SM Business Centers outside, side by side boutiques in the mall).
  2. Fill out 2 copies of the request form (one for you and one for SM). Ask a guard (if there is one) for the forms. If you’re requesting other documents, say CENOMAR or Death and Marriage Certificates, you need to fill out another form. That is, 2 forms PER request.
  3. Wait to be served.
  4. Transact and pay at the counter.
  5. Claim after 7 days. They will tell you where (what part of the mall) to claim it and when exactly. The standard processing is, I think 5-7 days. Don’t forget to bring your ID. (Be sure that the person who’s claiming it for you have your ID and your authorization letter if you can’t get it yourself). Somebody said you can also have it delivered for an extra fee, but I wasn’t able to confirm this.



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Another way of getting an NSO Birth Cetificate via another accredited party. Simply go to their website or call their hotline.




This is what I love the most: It only costs 160.00 (per copy). It’s only 140.00 if you get it from NSO office directly. SM charges 20.00 for processing.

If you get it online, by the way, one copy costs 315.00 (including delivery and 15.00 documentary tax). That’s 140.00 (per copy) + 175 (service and delivery fee) = 315.00. And the sad part is, if you’re requesting multiple documents with the same delivery address, they are going to treat one copy as one transaction EACH and will still charge you 175.00 service and delivery fee for EACH copy you request, so it’s still 315.00 PER COPY, even if there’s only one delivery address. They just put each in separate envelopes. Funny.

Don’t lose your receipt, since it has the date of when you requested the document. You’ll need that to prove it’s still within the six-month validity period.


Don’t feel like getting your PSA or NSO document from SM and still wondering where to get NSO birth certificate copies? Try Census Serbilis Centers. Check here if there’s one near you.


Ne-Yo, Review, The Saga That Is My Life

Hunting For Schools In Cavite

My hunt for schools in Cavite was, although undemanding, not totally stress-free as I thought it would be. Because even though grade schools are a lot less critical than pre-schools are, in my opinion, and I told myself I’m not going to make a lot of fuss about it this time (as compared to the time I looked for a pre-school, doggedly demanding things from each school I visited), it turned out to be as nerve-racking as crossing a high footbridge over a major thoroughfare– for a bit of perspective: I’m afraid of heights. I got hanged-up over one detail about the school I’ve chosen and got myself in a quandary at the last minute.

Anyway, my search for grade schools in Cavite was straightforward in that I only considered the nearest schools in our area. Those are, in order of house proximity, (1) Theresian School of Cavite, (2) Cavite School of St. Mark, (3) Angelicum Immanuel Montessori Bacoor and (4) Casa De San Miguel Montessori.

There weren’t too many reviews on the Internet for these schools, so if you’re looking for one and you’re hunting for elementary schools in Cavite, I hope this post will help you.

Basic facts, including my personal impressions for each school are on the top, and below each are other details.


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It’s a non-sectarian school with its entrance/exit gate tucked away safely in a cul-de-sac. It’s unfortunate they didn’t think of extending that safety towards their classrooms. The location of the classrooms are not ideal and not safe in my opinion. While high school building was enclosed in grills from second floor up, the rooms for elementary levels opened to a hallway/terrace without one. If not for this, I’d have probably picked this school. Of course I must add that the brown-dyed-hair girl on their website also bothered me. I rather see that as an indication of their culture.

Moving on, I think the school is strong in science for they have Robotics in their curriculum, although their computers didn’t look all that tiptop to me. They join academic contests but they also have varied extra-curricular sports activities (there’s a table tennis club, volleyball and chess [I think. Sorry, bad memory], basketball, etc. I also like the fact that they give 100% tuition fee discounts for Top 1 students.

They seem to have a high standard of teaching (disclaimer: I don’t know any scientific metric for measuring quality of teaching and I only use how early they introduce certain lessons as a basis). They teach Chemistry (concept and periodic table of elements) at grade 5.

They are using paper books but currently experimenting with digital books (i.e. tablets) for future use. Boards for rooms are half whiteboard and half blackboard (the green one), but I was told they only use whiteboard. For higher levels, they use the old green board plus other multimedia.

I must tell you that the musty smell that greeted me when they opened some rooms for me to check-out was discouraging. The air conditioning was, of course, turned off and I visited when the school was closed and rooms are not being aired, so I imagine the smell would not be that too strong when the rooms are being used. I did see that the chairs are a little old.


Teacher-student ratio – 1:20

Medium of teaching – English

Progressive education practices – Unsure (I got vague and uninformed answers)

Engages in school competitions – Yes (both academic and sports)

Discounts for honor students – Yes (100% for Top 1/ 50% for Top 2/ 25% for Top 3)

Sibling discounts: Yes

School service – Yes (starts at Php900)


TUITION including miscellaneous fee (New student School year 2016-2017)

Nursery & Kinder –  35,503.00

Kinder 2 – 37,003.00

Grades 1 to 3 – 41, 788.00

Grades 4 to 5 – 44,575.00

Grade 6 – 48,175.00

Grades 7 to 8 – 46,400.00

4th Year – 50,300.00


*Note – initial payment can be paid on installment. Notebooks are not included in the miscellaneous.


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For a school with a high tuition, Cavite School of St. Mark is a disappointment in some ways. But if you’re searching for schools in Cavite Bacoor area with a campus feel, this is the school. They only have 1 section per level but the school has several buildings and large land grounds, giving it the big school feel with a small school student-number. Admittedly, they have higher student-teacher ratio and their classrooms mirror this. They have big classrooms (certainly bigger than 1, 3 and 4 on my list) with I think higher ceilings. They use the old green boards (yeah, I can’t believe this either), but they say they use dustless chalk. Text books are also in the paper form, except for grade 4 students and above who use digital books (student-provided tablets devoid of games). Chairs are newer (but not new) than those in Theresian.

They do not participate in academic competitions and the teacher I spoke to said it’s because they do not receive invitations and if they do, they always come late. I think that information speaks of something, although they seem to be strong in sports and you can see this on big tarps with the smiling faces of their winning basketball teams hanging all over the façade of their building facing the street.

The canteen is in a covered but not enclosed space beside their covered court. I didn’t notice any fan, so I’m pretty sure that on a sunny day without any wind blowing, eating in the canteen will pretty much feel like eating outside under the blazing sun.

I like Cavite School of St. Mark. Except

1, they do not join academic competitions (which isn’t bad, except my kid has been representing his school since he was in pre-school), and I’d like there to be plenty of opportunities for my kid to join academic contests.

2, they only teach Chemistry in high school, which, to me, indicates a rather low standard of teaching (see my rationale above).

3, they have 3 Tagalog subjects: Filipino, Values (Pagpapahalaga) and Civics (Sibika/Araling Panlipunan). I prefer both Values (the school is non-sectarian) and Civics to be in English since my kid is more fluent in English.

And 4, the classes start at 7am and end at 3PM. And 4PM on Fridays. Too traditional for me.

I can live with a couple of these, but…

They do, however, employ Singapore Math techniques in teaching mathematics, and they also give discounts for honor students. And, if you’re looking for elementary schools in Cavite that do not encourage competition amongst its students but rewards its students for their hard work through individual recognition, well, this school’s honor system reflects that. They have a system like that found in colleges and universities. In other words, for as long as your child’s average grade reaches a certain mark, then your child is eligible for Top 1, whether or not there are 5 top 1s or 10 top 1s already. Think Summa Cum Laude, Magna and Cum Laude and you’ll get what I’m saying.


Teacher-student ratio – 1:25

Medium of teaching – English

Progressive education practices – Unsure (vague answers)

Engages in school competitions – Yes (sports)

Discounts for honor students – Yes (for Top 1- 3)

Sibling discounts: Yes

School service – Yes (2.5K range)


TUITION for Grades 1 through 3 (as of School Yr 2016-2017)

Tuition fee (including miscellaneous) – 48,577.51

books – 4,760.00

*Note – You may opt to include books in your installment (together with the tuition, yes. Terrific, right?!). The outbound trip (field trip) is already included in the miscellaneous. You have to buy notebooks outside (or ordinary ones in their bookstore. They don’t have custom notebooks).

The miscellaneous also includes access/subscription to a private web library.


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I believe there is a branch in General Trias and I saw some good reviews of that branch. The reviews I’ve read also sworn to the school being an authentic Montessori. If you are unfamiliar with the Montessori method of teaching, read up some here.

So, anyway. I’m all for a Montessori school (can you hear a “but” coming?)

However, this particular Montessori (I mean this particular branch), is too small. And I mean really small. I don’t think the whole school is bigger than 200 square meters, and yet I was told that they do have high school students in the branch. Yeah, space is my only beef in the school (assuming they do practice Montessori effectively).

They have a small open area in the front and smaller still classrooms. The classrooms, though, look newer (newer chairs and all) and they do use whiteboard.

The area in the front (which really looked like a house garage) I gather, is where they do flag ceremonies and Boy/Girl Scout Investitures (and possibly other activities). For bigger school activities, they use venues like Island Cove. This is good– or bad, depending on how you look at it, really.

Some objective and subjective observations:

I asked if I can look around but I was only shown the grade 2 classroom (my kid is incoming grade 2). I didn’t see any Montessori materials in the room. It was as bare as an empty fridge after it was ransacked by a perpetually hungry six-year old. So, after I took my fill of the room, I stood expectantly outside in the school ground, but no offer to look around came. This was even after I gestured towards the room upstairs and expressed my curiosity over the other rooms in the ground floor. I probably should have just asked again directly, I know.

Anyway, I came back the following day for a second look –figuratively and literally (‘coz I really wanted to like the school). Another teacher answered other questions I remembered to ask, like how structured their lessons are (because it’s a Montessori). I was told that they do not do mixed-age groupings for academic lessons and that weekly lessons are still expected to be followed by the student.

Here comes a highly subjective observation and you’re welcome to ignore it: the teacher I spoke to used ungrammatical English sentences. (Sorry, I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to grammar. It’s my work. I’d be long dead if I wasn’t *shrug*). BUT, I’m totally OK with that, I just hope he doesn’t teach English.

Nevertheless, he showed me around very kindly (and patiently), so I can tell you that the hallways and the stairs on the second floor of the building are hazard-proofed. I saw slip guards, trip-proofed stairs and screen covering all fall-prone open spaces and windows.

The computer room looks OK, as do the computers (although I didn’t ask about specs). They have a speech lab and a rather tiny library (the size is similar to a small closet).


Teacher-student ratio – 1:20

Medium of teaching – English

Progressive education practices – Montessori

Engages in school competitions – Yes

Discounts for honor students – Yes

Sibling discounts: Yes

School service – Yes


TUITION for Lower Elementary Department (as of School Yr 2016-2017)

tuition fee (including miscellaneous) – 27, 915.10

books – 6, 250

*Note – the miscellaneous fee includes notebooks.


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I’ve read a review about this school being dark inside, so I never planned on checking it (Moral lesson: visit the school regardless of a review you’ve read and heard). I gave it a chance after a recommendation from a neighbor (and because none of the schools I have visited quite cut it). I’m not saying they’re bad, they just don’t have the qualities I’m looking for.

OK. So, the gate of the school can be found in a secluded nook of a very big open space con basketball court and parking lot with access from the main road. There’s a long paved alleyway for pedestrians that pleasantly reminds me of “big school” entrances and which leads directly to the gate. This spacious area quickly erased the inadequately lit impression I got from that review. And even though I noticed that the canteen to which the entrance immediately open to didn’t have enough natural light permeating through, it wasn’t sufficient enough to dent my first own impression of the school having “big, naturally lit open spaces”.

Past that canteen is a gap in between buildings that lend light through the hallway. I also remember seeing a tree with a bench around it through a passageway going to a covered and dark (yes) empty space they probably use for activities. The rooms have part-glass walls on the side of the hallway, so they didn’t appear dark to me, as well.

I saw Montessori materials on low shelves by the wall and the chairs were arranged around a square table. There were, I think, about five tables with four chairs each. Definitely not lecture-type arrangement. They also practice individualized (i.e. one-on-one) teaching.

They use Montessori materials for English, Science and Math. They teach Chemistry in grade 4, Geometry in grade 2 and generally introduce 2nd-year-high-school subjects to grade 4. Their pre-school students move-up to grade 1 with reading and cursive-writing skills.

It all sounded great but it also got me worrying, especially after I learned that solving division problems, the concept of which wasn’t even adequately introduced to grade 1 in my kid’s previous school, was already taught to their grade 1 students.

The downside in all these, at least in my opinion, is that they do not have honor system. I was told I can always ask for my child’s standing in the class but that this isn’t posted, and because they do not rank students, they do not verbally announce any class standing either. What this means, at least for me, is that I can forget about collecting medals each school year and framing each one to proudly display how my kid got the highest honor every single year that he was at school. *deep sigh*

What they do have is a ranking for who got the highest score for every subject every periodical test.


Teacher-student ratio – 1:20

Medium of teaching – English

Progressive education practices – Montessori

Engages in school competitions – Yes

Discounts for honor students – No

Sibling discounts: I forgot to ask (sorry!)

School service – Yes


TUITION including miscellaneous (as of School Yr 2016-2017)

Casa – 44, 000

Grade 1-3 – 45, 000

Grade 4-6 – 46,000

Grade 7-8 – 48,000

Grade 9-11 – 49,000


Books (depends on level) – 4,000 (grade 2)

*Note – miscellaneous does not include notebooks. Custom notebooks can be bought from the school.


If you’re curious about what school we eventually went to, it’s Casa de San Miguel Montessori School. Or did you guess that already?

After some significant soul-searching (being dramatic can be fun sometimes), I enrolled my kid at the school. I know that academic honors, at the end of the day, aren’t what makes a person successful, but I’ve seen the effect of receiving medals in my kid. It’s confidence-boosting, serotonin-inducing, effort-gratifying and rewarding all round not just for him but for everyone, as well. I’m not gonna lie, it’s always a proud-parent-moment each time we go up the stage, and it’s probably just me who’s more concerned about medals and honors than my kid himself.

But, there were no other schools nearby (I do not want to subject my kid to a long travel everyday). St. Mark could easily have been my second choice if not for the fact that they do not have an advanced curriculum. So, we decided to compromise. No more medals and honors. But at least we are sure that The Kid is studying lessons for higher levels. Plus, there is good in not having an honor system, I know that. I’m just being obstinate and refusing to see it (*whisper* I got that from my father).

So, yeah, we picked Casa de San Miguel, and I hope this post will help you in searching for schools in Cavite. I am happy with Casa de San Miguel, thus far (notice this was published one month after school opened). During the orientation, they hammered on the school having an advanced curriculum. They told us stories about students who left and studied abroad, and didn’t feel left behind. They told us about students who topped college entrance tests (UP and LaSalle). They recounted stories about their average students who turned out weren’t average outside, but Dean’s Listers in their respective colleges. And they told us about bench-marking and getting books abroad, not just here in the country. Of course, all that is just talk. Still, I am looking forward to my kid passing the UPCAT, assuming he’d agree to go there. Wish me luck?

Product & Service Review, The Saga That Is My Life, You Should Try It!

The Merriam Webster Bookstore In Morayta

Merriam Webster Bookstore. It’s a little gold mine of a bookstore hidden amongst rows of stalls selling all kinds of baubles and trinkets in Morayta, Manila. Back in high school, apart from the interesting stalls around, it’s one of my favorite go-to place me and my bestfriend like to stop at after school.

I like clothes– and new and nice-smelling boutiques– but there’s something about musty bookstores that I just cannot resist—specifically bookstores selling singular copies of novels sold at low prices. I get a little excited everytime I see bookstores like these.

It’s been years since I’ve been in the area and it’s a most welcome sight to find it still surviving today. Memories of high school days when we would stroll around the store almost every week all came flooding back.

I like this. And the random arrangement of each.

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Poking around for a good read is all part of the charm!

With their sizes–and at rare times their literary type– the only manner of organization, it’s like digging and finding something gold every time.


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I got this. I can’t wait to read it.


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And this. (You know, just so I can tell myself I’m a wide-reader. Insert self-deprecating laugh here.)

I wanted to buy these but they’re off my budget.

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I want this!!!!

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There’s this Korean series I watched and they talked about this particular book.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw these shelves lined up with classics. There’s Kipling, Bronte and other authors I’ve never read (yep, I’ve never read a Shakespeare or a Dickens. I’m truly mortified).


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I hope to go back soon, and I sincerely and truly truly hope the store never closes. It’s an old bookstore with delightful finds. Well, at least for boring people like me who like books and the feel of old-fashioned paper books. Please come by and check out Merriam Webster Bookstore in Morayta.

Neither Here Nor There, The Saga That Is My Life

5 Top Reasons to Ditch Hotels and Use Vacation Home Rentals

I wrote this piece for someone who has “forgotten” to pay me and I’m posting it here because.. well, there’s no other way to say it without sounding bad but, if I give you rights to my work, I do expect you to pay for it. Otherwise, well…


Keyword: Vacation Home Rentals Related keywords: Vacation Home Rentals Florida, Vacation Home Rentals Florida by owner

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