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Illustrated travel journal: Taiwan

I’ve been sporadically working on my Taiwan travel journal since November 2019, and it’s finally finished! Sharing my trip with you the way I chose to see, document, and remember it 🙂 My Taiwan trip was a solo trip; the main purpose of which was for a birthday getaway -slash- ART TRIP. It is very difficult (but feasible) to draw and travel when you have company with you (unless they’re artists, too, and drawing is on your itinerary), so I wanted to take this opportunity to go on this trip specifically to MAKE ART. And yes, as you can see from the journaling space above, I was nursing some hurts from stuff going on in my personal life but it was all the more reason to go on this trip to step away and redirect my focus on happy, positive things in the meantime 😛 Drawing landmarks This was actually the first time I was able to intentionally block off time to draw on my travel itinerary. For my past travel journals, I almost never drew on location (I was always with other people and my previous trips were not designed for such)– I would work on my travel drawings perhaps in the hotel after getting back from a day of sightseeing, or weeks and months after the trip was over. This time since I was traveling solo and in charge of everything, I went at my own pace and planned my itinerary around drawing. Documenting experiences I mentioned going to church around my birthday in this previous post, and it was such a meaningful experience that I made sure it would get a spot on my travel journal. I also went to Jiufen, an old mountain town. I’m a lazy traveler and I almost didn’t feel like going there because it was an hour away by bus from Taipei and I’m not very fond of touristy places. But I saw Jiufen’s red lanterns online and it piqued my interest; I thought they’d be nice to draw plus I THOUGHT THE PLACE WOULD MAKE FOR GOOD CONTENT FOR MY TRAVEL JOURNAL hahaha. So off I went to make the out-of-the-way trip. Gosh, if I didn’t have my travel journal to think of (that’s content for my blog, Tiktok, and Instagram!), I probably would’ve skipped going to Jiufen. Traveled for an hour to get to Jiufen, then stayed just an hour because it was cold and crowded and the bus ride made me queasy. I get motion sickness and nobody mentions in travel blogs that a portion of the road to Jiufen is long and winding! So here I am mentioning it! I ended up getting milk tea (which I’m also not a fan of! I don’t like drinking my calories! Haha!) as soon as I arrived in Jiufen to get rid of my nausea. Anyway my 1-hour Jiufen trip, despite it being so short, was worthwhile because I managed to get a Tiktok video out of my trip and my milk tea and the video accumulated 670k views (click here to see it kasi chismosa ka 😛). That’s ROI already on my queasy bus ride nyahahaha. After my Jiufen experience, I had time to browse books at a well-known Taipei bookstore, Eslite: Drawing the food I ate You can’t go to Taiwan and not eat when it’s known for its street food! Part of the fun of keeping a travel journal for me is drawing food. I can’t draw everything I ate on the trip but I did keep note of the more memorable ones. Here are some of them. I really, really, super enjoyed my Taiwan “art trip” and I hope I’d be able to go back in the future– there’s so much I haven’t covered (Houtong cat village! Rainbow village! Night markets!). All the more reason to go back, yes? Here’s to hoping it’ll be sooner rather than later, and make good ROI by documenting it all on my travel journal :)))) * * * Check out my other Taiwan blog posts here. See all my travel journals here.

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I spent my Halloween at the adorable Rilakkuma Cafe in Taipei

I have something to confess. I wasn’t able to visit a single night market in Taiwan 🙁 I know, I know. What a tragedy. To be in one of the best places in Asia to eat and not go to a single night market. I have my food allergies (I have a lot of them) to blame– two weeks before flying to Taiwan, I broke out in hives all over my face and entire body from eating fried chicken from a fastfood chain I tried for the first time. A bit paranoid from my experience (I had to go to the hospital ER where they hooked me up to antihistamines via IV), I wanted to play it safe in Taipei and stick to “safe” and unadventurous food as I was traveling alone. That meant no night markets 🙁 So… the highlight of my Taiwan trip, food-wise? I came across the Rilakkuma Cafe while searching for cool places to eat in Taipei. Some blogs mentioned this and it caught my interest. It was Halloween, October 31st, and I wanted to go for lunch! I did mention in my previous blog entries that I’m a sucker for cute stuff, no? That includes cute food. I thought it would be a good way to spend Halloween– instead of looking at ghosts and witches, I’d spend it with an adorable bear and his friends. I love Rilakkuma; he’s my second favorite Sanrio character after Hello Kitty 😛 Let me show you the food at the Rilakkuma Cafe and you’ll know why I was sold on going: That’s just the menu. I couldn’t wait to see what the actual food looked in person. The server got my order then while waiting for my food, I took photos of the place. Then my food arrived! I got a standard set meal via Klook (more on Klook later!). This is what I ordered: a Rilakkuma Omelette with Beef Bourguignon. LOOK HOW ADORABLE IT IS EEEEEEK I’m not a big fan of beef and I initially wanted a different dish (the cheese rice ball in cream sauce!). But the Omelette, for me, was the cutest out of the meals they had so– GOING BY LOOKS ALONE– I chose this one. I mean, c’mon– RILAKKUMA IS SLEEPING UNDER A BLANKET OF EGGS! With R written on it (it stands for Rilakkuma and also Reg)! It’s INSANE how cute this is. It wasn’t only good-looking; it was actually good, too– full of flavor and very filling as the serving was big. My set meal came with dessert as well and this is what I had: The food presentation was also really good and well thought-of! I washed everything down with a drink (which didn’t come with my set meal; I ordered it separately). Check out their other desserts! I mentioned that I got this set meal via Klook. Stay with me– this is not a sponsored post 🙂 HAVE YOU USED KLOOK BEFORE?! I haven’t, prior to this trip! I would come across mentions of it on blogs but I never paid attention. I only did when I booked my Rilakkuma Cafe experience. Turns out Klook is this amazing travel voucher app that lets you book discounted activities, tours, hotels, passes, entrance tickets, etc. Klook had a voucher for a set meal at the Rilakkuma Cafe which I bought before leaving for Taiwan. It came out cheaper (around 15% off) to avail of my set meal via Klook than if I had paid in person at the restaurant for the dishes I ordered. All I had to do upon arrival at the Rilakkuma Cafe was present my already-paid-for voucher on my phone and they got me my order! It was as simple as that. I just had to pay extra for the drink (not included in the set) that I availed of at the restaurant. Check out a similar Rilakkuma Cafe voucher I availed of (for another Rilakkuma Cafe location though! The original voucher I used is no longer active), and if you haven’t used Klook before, sign up for it via my link and get $25 HKD (P150~) to spend on any booking: https://www.klook.com/invite/59UXPL?c=PHP  All in all it was a good dining experience if you’re into cute food and themed restaurants (it may not be for everyone!). The food is admittedly pricey because it’s a themed cafe (you’re paying for the license and experience) but the servings are generous and the food is actually really good (people generally don’t expect much, taste-wise, from themed cafes). I’d probably go to the Rilakkuma Cafe again next time I’m in Taipei. Haha! (P.S. Bakit sa Pinas wala tayong mga themed cafe featuring local characters? Ayaw niyo ng Enteng Kabisote Cafe?!) Rilakkuma Café, Taipei No. 3, Lane 248, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Rd, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106 Opening Hours: 11:30am – 10:00pm Daily Nearest MRT: Zhongxiao Dunhua Station, Exit 3

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Spending my birthday in Taipei

The day started out pretty bleh. I woke up having gotten just a few hours of troubled sleep. The cold weather had gotten to me while drawing outdoors the previous day, and I woke up on the day of my birthday with a clogged nose, a sore throat, a slight fever, and feeling as if all my mucus was in my throat (too much info?). I felt terrible and contemplated staying in my hotel the entire day to rest off what I felt was going to turn into the flu. Never mind that it was my birthday. I’ve never made a big deal out of my birthdays anyway and prefer to treat it as just a regular day. But the weather forecast told me that that Saturday was the only day in my seven-day trip to Taiwan when the sun will be out. Indeed, it had been drizzling and overcast the past few days. I forced myself out of bed, deciding to take advantage of the current weather and thinking the sun will warm my bones and my sinuses and perhaps make me feel better. My first meal of the day was a leisurely lunch at a street stall serving Malaysian food. I was so pleasantly surprised to have THE. SUPER. DUPER. B E S T. Hainanese Chicken Rice I’ve ever had. My clogged sinuses didn’t get in the way of my sense of taste haha. I love chicken and this chicken was juicy and tender; the rice was so flavorful. Mmmmm! I’m salivating just thinking about it. After that I went to take the train in search of a certain coffee place I found online. I got off at the station and spent a few minutes looking for the place on Google Maps… only to get lost and come up empty-handed. I dunno– I wasn’t able to find it. I went to another coffee shop instead, and had waffles and coffee. Their coffee was REALLY, really good, and the warmth really soothing for my sore throat. Since I was already there, I thought I’d check out other places I could go to in the area (para di sayang ang punta ko). Checking Google Maps, I saw that an artsy creative hub I read about online was not too far away, so I decided to go. I walked towards that direction, but saw a sign for the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall instead. I knew nothing about it but the park grounds looked inviting so forgetting my original plan, I turned in that direction instead. Entrance was free, the Memorial Hall impressive, and the park was spacious. Also seen from the park grounds was a pleasant surprise– Taipei 101, formerly the world’s tallest building. It’s a Taiwan landmark but I hadn’t planned on visiting it because to me, it was just a building. Still, it was nice to see it, even if unintentionally. It was photography golden hour. I was feeling better already, and true to the weather forecast, the sun was out that day. It was pleasantly cool and everything was bathed in soft, golden light. I was surrounded by people taking leisurely strolls and little kids running around, blowing bubbles that were glistening in the sun. An old man was flying a kite nearby. Everything was so charming and idyllic. If it had been a scene in a movie, it would’ve had a soundtrack– light, happy music with children laughing in the background. I found myself in between two Taipei landmarks with the sun reflected behind me, and managed to get this shot. I recognized this moment as God’s personal birthday blessing for me. I hadn’t asked God for anything specific or grand for my birthday, but He knows I’ll find joy and delight in these “little” things (which, to me, are big things) anyway– the delicious chicken lunch, wonderful coffee, idyllic time at the park, unexpected landmarks, the sun shining. Before my trip, I had prayed for the Lord to direct me to where I need to be and that I “always find myself at the right place, at the right time.” I realized this was a manifestation of my prayer being answered. I may not have planned to be here (wanting to stay in in my hotel, getting lost and not finding the coffee shop I wanted, planned on going somewhere and took an unplanned turn instead) but here I was in the perfect spot, and at the perfect time as captured in the photo. I realized God was showing His favor upon me and that I was exactly where God intended me to be. A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 6:19 NKJV I settled down on the sidewalk to draw in my travel journal. A Taiwanese lolo came up to me and started talking in Chinese, thinking I was a local. He complimented me on my drawing and showed off my sketchbook to his wife, who greeted me coolly and didn’t seem pleased about her husband talking to a single female half his age hahahahaha. Then I went home because it was starting to get dark and my pocket wifi had run out of battery. It had been a wonderful day 🙂 * * * The next day was a Sunday. The English mass at the Catholic church I had found was at 9:45 AM. The night before, I prayed, “Lord, if You want me there, help me get there in time.” (Let’s be honest, minsan tamad tayo mag-simba.) I had misread the subway map and underestimated my time, so I lost a good 15 minutes of travel on the way to the church. I arrived during the second reading and settled in at the church pew. Some of the songs sung at mass were Filipino arrangements I was familiar with, and I marvelled at how mass is the same in other countries. I’ve been able to attend non-English Catholic masses in Macau and Italy, and one can still get a sense of what’s going on even if the mass is celebrated in a foreign language. How nice and comforting that the Catholic church is the same wherever you go, I thought, smiling to myself. And when communion started, the song sung was How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place. It touched me to my core and I wanted to cry. I felt the Lord acknowledging and affirming what I had in my thoughts. God wanted me to be here, in the comfort of His church 🙂 After the mass, they asked the first-time visitors to the church to stand up. I did, and I was given a Holy Family prayer card along with the other first-timers. Then they called all November birthday celebrants to the front where we were prayed over by the priest. The congregation sang happy birthday, then we were given an envelope with a birthday card and a prayer booklet. I realized– the day of my birthday might have been over, but the birthday blessings from the Lord were not. I went out of the church and went about the rest of my day with a happy heart, hihi. This entire trip was a delight, and I felt the Lord’s blessings and favor upon me all through out. But these are the ones I especially wanted to really document and write about. It was a good way to start off a new chapter in my life. Thank You, Lord! I am eternally grateful 🙂

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Quirky, illustrated Taiwan

Hello from Taiwan! 🙂 I felt like getting away for my birthday and booked my flight to Taipei a little more than a month before my departure. Why Taiwan? I actually was considering going to Japan or Korea (both of which I’ve been to before) for my birthday trip but thought Taiwan would be cheaper (and it is), haha! Also, I’ve never been to Taipei beyond passing through its airport for layovers. I thought Taiwan would make for a good Asian trip for its proximity to Manila, availability of inexpensive airfare, and its street food. But my biggest deciding factor? TAIWANESE STATIONERY. I’m a sucker for stationery– stickers, notepads, pens, notebooks, and all sorts of art supplies and paper goods. I knew Taiwan has them in abundance, so that was a huge plus in deciding where to go for my birthday trip! I’m traveling solo so I also thought this would be a perfect opportunity to turn this into an art trip– to draw and paint while traveling (more on these things in my upcoming blog posts!). So I landed in Taipei a few days ago… and I TOTALLY did not expect that Taiwan would be like quirky, illustrated Japan! Right off the bat, I was greeted with illustrated signages at the airport’s walkways. I had time to kill before checking in to my hotel, so I wandered a bit around the airport souvenir shops and found these. Super cute! There was more when I rode the MRT into the city. I was starting to wonder why Taiwan was so heavily into illustrations for their advertisements, much like Japan. I vaguely recall Taiwan being a hub for cartoon animation in the past and some cursory googling confirmed as much. Perhaps that influenced their use of illustrations for advertising and information visuals. Most people will just ignore these signs and walk right past them but remember, I’m an illustrator (and a reluctant graphic designer)! I love this kind of stuff! I was the only person taking photos of the illustrated backlit displays and posters hahaha (it was a refreshing change from advertisements in Manila plastered with faces of celebrities!). I also like how their food packaging is illustrated. I was walking around the city and saw several electric boxes (?) painted with actual paint (instead of the usual printed laminate). It’s a pity there’s graffiti on it but the art is still pretty! And take a look at my Easycard. It’s a reloadable card/keychain you can use to pay for train/bus rides and convenience store purchases. As I was buying my Easycard, I was asked to choose between a Chinese-looking flowery design and a Mr. Potato Head one. Why Mr. Potato Head was an option, I have no idea (and of course that’s what I picked). But it’s added quirk to love about Taiwan. Can you imagine paying with a Pong Pagong MRT card (uy, nahahalata ang edad) in Manila? Is the Philippines quirky like dut? I don’t think so. (We’re quirky when it comes to politics and other things, but not design-wise). There are so many cute and illustrated quirky things to see in Taiwan that I’ve pretty much stopped taking photos coz they’re just taking up space on my phone. What a pleasant surprise for me to discover that illustration-wise, Taiwan is every bit as cute and adorable as Japan. Do let me leave you with one more photo– my favorite illustrated signage so far, seen on the MRT: I’m keeping my eyes peeled for more illustrated quirk for the rest of my stay here, knowing that this trip will influence my work as an illustrator in the future 🙂

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20 Ways to Draw a Strawberry (and 44 Other Elegant Edibles)

I posted a video on TikTok of me drawing in this book and the video blew up, with over 680,000 views 1.5 million views and 170,000 likes 352,000 likes as of this writing (tbh it’s lowkey stressful to have that many notifs blowing up my phone 😅). People have been asking the title of the book and where to get it so I decided to write this post 🙂 The book is 20 Ways to Draw a Strawberry and 44 other Elegant Edibles by Zoe Ingram. It’s available here on Amazon, but I got my copy from the Big Bad Wolf book sale in Manila last year (2018): 20 Ways to Draw a Strawberry, published by Quarry Books, is a simple book with prompts, blank pages, and sample drawings to get you started on unlocking 20 (or more!) different ways to draw food items: Twenty premade drawings are provided by the author/illustrator, Zoe Ingram. The rest of the page is left blank for you to fill in with your take on 20 more ways to draw the item given. And yes, from the way it sounds, it’s quite a creative challenge to think up ways to draw a single object differently! Your creative juices will be squeezed and your artistic muscles flexed in filling up this book. I’ve filled in several pages using different media– watercolor (don’t use too much water; the book’s pages aren’t for wet media), colored pencils, pens, acrylic markers, and brush pens. I bought this book on a whim at Big Bad Wolf because it was so inexpensive (maybe Php 100?!). It makes for good practice to challenge oneself to think out of the box and suspend whatever art style you have (if you already have one) and try out new things. I’m looking forward to filling in the other pages (I will TikTok it!) in between more serious creative work. This is the video on TikTok that blew up, by the way: Follow me on TikTok! My username is @regsilvadotcom. 20 Ways to Draw a Strawberry and 44 Other Elegant Edibles: A Sketchbook for Artists, Designers, and Doodlers is available on Amazon for $5.53. Check it out here: https://amzn.to/2nRrBt8 (Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.)

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I got into abstract painting as a joke. Joke’s on me.

Warning: very colorful post ahead. In my younger years, I hated going to art museums and galleries and seeing crappy (to me) art being sold for a ton of money. I had a strong dislike for abstract art– the kind where the artist seems to just randomly throw goopy paint at a canvas and call it art, complete with a highly-philosophical, baloney-sounding artist statement about identity or some inner crisis. What I hated even more was the fact that people were buying it for a price the artist commanded. I’d have my eyebrows knitted together, thinking if perhaps I’m not a real artist (because I make happy, colorful things and I’m not filled with existentialist, suicidal angst?) and I just don’t get it. WTF, I would think. Anyone can do that! It got me thinking… why don’t *I*?! And so in 2017, fresh from having let go of my illustration agent and free from having to do commercial children’s book projects, I purchased some tubes of acrylic paint. My mission: to randomly throw goopy paint at a canvas and call it a hot mess art (“ahhhrrrttt”). And then troll people with it, making them think it’s some sort of deep, high brow, highfalutin conceptual art they don’t understand but will pretend to anyway because they’re pseudo-art connoisseurs (I had to google the spelling of “connoisseur”). If I could make money from it, it would be just a bonus hahaha. Yup, that really was my aim– my idea of a joke I can laugh about in private. That’s why I am quite neutral and actually quite amused about Richard Gomez’s dick painting at ManilArt. Hey Goma, gets kita! You’re trolling everyone! I hope whoever is rich enough to buy your Php 196,000 ($3,800 USD) penis painting is a troll, too! I started looking around on Instagram for abstract painting ideas. In the course of research though, I found myself inadvertently drawn to modern abstract artists on Instagram who were doing pretty, colorful things on canvas. Abstract, yes, but pretty. They were nothing like the drab abstract art in museums that I would be so incensed by. My mind was opened, and so inspired was I that I started doing my own, laying down random splashes of paint on paper (paper muna, pang-practice haha). I quickly found out that abstract painting wasn’t as easy as it looks. Or maybe I wasn’t letting myself off easy– I couldn’t JUST throw paint at a canvas (Sayang! Mahal ang paint!). I still had to consider aesthetic, visual balance, and color composition. Before I knew it, I had built up some very bright and colorful abstract paintings. Oops. What’s surprising was I actually enjoyed working on these– for real, and not because I thought it would be funny to troll people into thinking this was real art. I posted my paintings on my Instagram and my followers also liked what I was doing even if it was immensely different from my usual work. My abstracts got more likes than my real, thought-out, binuhusan-ng-effort illustration stuff. Hahahaha. Oops again. I ceased painting abstracts as a joke and started painting them for my enjoyment. Coming from years of digital illustration and pixels, it was so refreshing to pick up a real brush and use actual paint. The bright and happy colors I was using was therapeutic and the act of painting, relaxing. My abstracts are mindless, experimental, exploratory, and exists just for the sake of existing. Art for art’s sake, unlike my illustrations which had mostly been for clients or commercial applications. I started painting my abstracts two years ago, in 2017. It’s 2019 now, and I occasionally still do paint abstracts when I’m feeling listless and in need of loosening up artistically. I’m looking to eventually even sell off the paintings I’ve accumulated because some people have been interested in purchasing them. They do look good on neutral-colored walls as decorative paintings 😛 I’ve actually done more than just abstracts with my acrylic paints– I took up painting lessons this year to learn how to REALLY paint. I’m talking landscapes, still life, and realism. But that’s another blog post for another day 🙂

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Wooooh. Convicted!

Note: This is a post I originally published on my personal Facebook account on March 25, 2018. In mid-2016 I was getting the sense the Lord was telling me I needed to delete my private online journal for safety and privacy reasons in the wake of a suspected cybersecurity issue (among other things). My LiveJournal (hello LJ friends who had access to my account!) had hundreds and hundreds of journal entries dating back to 2001. I had a strong emotional attachment to my journal. Journaling was my outlet and therapy; my journal was where I vented my frustrations, wrote for posterity the things I wanted to remember, told stories about my joys, hurts and heartbreak, funny things that happened to me, and everything in between. My journal was my life. But fast forward to now. Long story short, I did delete my online journal (albeit a year after I first got a nudge from the Lord that I was to delete it) but not before a lot of tears, hemming and hawing, deleting and undeleting. But before I made the final purge online, I compiled all my journal entries into a 970+ page .PDF document and stored it on my hard drive. (Sumunod nga kay Lord, pero kung makakalusot, lulusot) “Israel, you have in your possession some things that I ordered you to destroy! You cannot stand against your enemies until you get rid of these things!” Joshua 7:13 When I read the verse above from my Bible reading today… I knew. I had to delete the .PDF, too 😥😭 so I did that just today, crying over it for a while before I hit the delete button. That’s 15 years of my life… gone. My reflection: we cannot have a new life if we keep holding on to our old lives, and we can’t start a new chapter if we keep rereading the old ones. Just as the enemy holds us back by bringing up our old issues, we cannot move forward if we keep entertaining the past. The old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). So now… I’m truly and finally moving forward and I’m looking forward to seeing what NEW stories and journal entries God wants me to write… in the safety of a paper journal. P.S. I love it when God speaks directly through His Word. Kahit minsan masakit 🙁

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I went on a social media fast for a month. Here’s what happened.

A month ago, on September 1st, I deactivated my Facebook and deleted Twitter and Instagram on my phone. I’m gonna go on a total social media fast for at least a month, I thought. I’ve come to realize I may have a smartphone/social media addiction, and it’s getting out of hand. We all know social media can be a blackhole but my phone tells me I’m on my phone for an average of 7 hours a day. SEVEN HOURS! ANO TO, FULLTIME JOB?!

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“Congratulations!”

That’s what the priest told me in the confessional when I went to confession recently. The past 6 months have been a struggle. I experienced spiritual fatigue, burn out, betrayal, doubt, persecution, hurt, loneliness. I also stepped down from my position in ministry to take care of my non-community priorities, and with it came speculation, rumors, gossip. Some people I thought were my friends weren’t friends, after all. I stopped talking to most people because I didn’t know whom I could trust. “Ano ba yan, Lord,” I sulked. “Ginagawa ko lang naman yung pinapagawa Mo sakin.”

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How to make tampo with God– the right way

I was standing next to a friend and co-intercessor during worship. When worship ended, she took me aside and asked me a question. “Yung nagtampo ka kay Lord, gaano katagal?” I wasn’t surprised at her question. “Aling tampo?” I wanted to ask.

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