Meet LAINE . . .
It was the last property her father acquired before he passed away—an undeveloped property on Panglao Island, off the beaten track. Laine went there when she wanted some time alone. Her father was a religious man and was a minister at the local church. He used to tell her how everybody needed quiet time. Even Jesus.
She had gone home for the weekend to visit her mother and just escaped the relatives offering her all sorts of local dishes, bickering on whose cooking most delighted the girl who came home from Manila. She had feasted on her mother’s halang-halang and buwad for breakfast, which had always been her favorites, and knew any more would be overkill.
Laine tied up her hair in a ponytail, took off her shorts, and looked around. In all the times that she had been in that place, there had never been another soul. Then again, it never hurt to check. She took off her razorback tee and adjusted her bikini. She usually covered up herself more, but here she wore the one bikini she had for sunbathing.
She went down the stone steps with her snorkel and fins and dog-paddled her way through the water. Her father had taught her how to swim when she was a child, and since then, she and the sea had begun a love affair. Her tanned skin and well-toned body were proof enough.
She skin-dived a few times to the bottom of the sea to check if new corals had grown since she last came home. After a while she became satisfied that the older corals were as healthy as before.
When she surfaced for air, a voice called out from the cliff, “Oi!”
Laine turned to see who had trespassed on her personal retreat. There was a man standing on her father’s property, waving at her. She swam closer to shore, ready to tell the man off.
“Excuse me. This is private property.”
“Laine?” the guy asked, peering at her as she treaded in the water.
She strained to see his face, but the sun glared, and she squinted. She stepped out of the water and climbed up the steps, covering her body with her arms. She put on her tank top and approached the guy. He looked like he was about her age; he was wearing a tank and board shorts just like her.
“Yes?” She stood in front of him and had to look up.
“Your mother told me I’d find you here.” He crossed his arms, and his eyes danced as he took in her confusion.
“My mom? Who are you?”
“You don’t remember me at all?” He chuckled.
“I’m sorry. I really don’t.”
Laine’s eyes suddenly roamed over the built arms, which pressed against his muscular chest, which led to his slim waist, which . . .
Snap out of it!
She hugged her waist.
“It’s me, Antonio.”
 A Visayan dish cooked with chicken or pork and is stewed in coconut milk and chili
 Dried fish or squid, which can be pungent, with a crunchy and chewy texture