#SayFeels! with Boracay Guy and Manila Girl from Words and Water by Mina V. Esguerra

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College sophomore Hannah Maquiling doesn’t know why everyone tells her their love problems. She’s never even had a boyfriend, but that doesn’t stop people from spilling their guts to her, and asking for advice. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise when the cutest guy in school tells her that she’s going to have to take on this responsibility — but for all humanity.

The Goddess of Love has gone AWOL. It’s a problem, because her job is to keep in check this world’s obsession with love (and lack of it). The God of the Sun, for now an impossibly handsome senior at an exclusive college just outside of Metro Manila, thinks Hannah has what it takes to (temporarily) do the job.

INTERIM GODDESS OF LOVE: While she’s learning to do this goddess thing, she practices on the love troubles of shy Kathy, who’s got a secret admirer on campus. Hannah’s mission, should she choose to accept it, is to make sure that he’s not a creepy stalker and they find their happily ever after — or at least something that’ll last until next semester. (As if she could refuse! The Sun God asked so nicely. And he’s so, well, hot.)

QUEEN OF THE CLUELESS: If you’ve been feeling neglected by the Goddess of Love lately, don’t worry — Hannah Maquiling, college sophomore, is in training to take over. The Original Goddess is missing, but Hannah is Interim Goddess now, and she should figure out how to solve humanity’s love problems soon. Quin (God of the Sun) is still her mentor, still really hot, but apparently isn’t as honest about his other earthly relationships as she thought. It’s frustrating, and enough to make her check out possibilities with Diego (God of the Sea) and Robbie (Cute Human).

In the meantime, she’s decided to spend some of her precious training time helping to break up a relationship, instead of putting one together. Why? Because the girl in question happens to be her best friend Sol, whose boyfriend is stealing not just from her, but from other people on campus. Sol didn’t exactly summon the Goddess, but this is what power over Love is for, right? Surely it’s not just about matchmaking, but ending doomed relationships too. (Even when it’s not what people want.)

ICON OF THE INDECISIVE: College student Hannah Maquiling, also temporarily working as the Goddess of Love, has had enough of everyone asking for her help when it comes to relationships. It’s her turn to find romance! She deserves it, after serving as matchmaker and confidant to everyone else in Ford River College for the past year. She’s had a crush on handsome senior (and God of the Sun) Quin forever, but he’s destined to fall in love with an extraordinary mortal woman, so she’s figured her chances with him have pretty much dropped to zero.

It’s not like she doesn’t have any options for a classic college romance though. There’s Diego, God of the Sea and Quin’s best friend/enemy. And regular guy Robbie is stepping up, making sure she knows how he feels about her. How hard can it be for a goddess to find someone to love, and be loved in return?

According to Mina herself and I quote,

This is the first chapter of a new, short thing.

Stalk Mina for this thing

Words and Water (Excerpt)

Do I even want to do this…?

It took me seven days out of ten to make my way to this place, just a hundred or so steps away from where I was staying in Boracay. Or so, if you count the turn from the beach into the narrow alley, and crossing the street. The establishments and resorts on this side weren’t strictly “beach front” anymore so they had to come up with other ways to lure the guests over.

Diving Lessons. Pool Training.

Seven days out of ten to end up there and I still spent twenty minutes looking at the sign.

It’s now or never. I only had eight vacation days to use and wrapped it around a weekend so I could stay ten days there. Another trip like this was not happening soon, or ever.

The seven days had been good to me so far. February was not the obvious time to go to the beach, but that meant less people, clear water, and a surprising variety of sky. I got to spend a sunny day, a rainy day, a cloudy day, a windy day at the beach. Like all the seasons, as if I were a local.

If not for that then the days would have felt the same. Because I drank fruit shake, attempted to make sand castles, ate fish, sat on the sand. Every day.

What I said I would do, when I first booked the flight, was this, and I was going to try, maybe, finally.

The gate holding up the sign opened outward all of a sudden, and I jumped out of its way.

“Are you the nine o’clock?” a woman asked me, as she pushed her arms into a wet suit. I was not the nine o’clock, but the gate was open and I was there, past the point of gracefully running away.

“I’m not…exactly…” I was stammering as I stepped inside, into a receiving area that was really just the space surrounding a rectangle of a swimming pool. “I wanted to inquire…no I’m not your nine o’clock.”

“Oh.” She looked like she was in her thirties and had absolutely no time for me. “In that case, you’ll need to talk to someone else inside, because I need to go find somebody.”

Isn’t everyone? Looking for somebody. I almost said that, because my humor was not very good, but kept wanting to say things. Good thing I was silenced by this being very awkward.

Maybe I was hoping it would be too early in the morning and there would be no one here to entertain me, and I could go back and say that I at least tried. Instead I find the resort and diving school somewhat busy. I could hear people, noises, signs of life.

The pool was quiet, empty, the water clear and still.

The sun moved on the water and I blinked.

“You need help with something?”

Oh, god. This guy who spoke up. Tall, hair like an untamed nest of fire. Hard body. No shirt, and suddenly in front of me.

“Do you work here?” I squeaked.

“They think I do.”

I squinted. “Well…do you?”

“Yes.” He was amused, and my pool of embarrassment grew and I sank in deeper. So smug, so tan, possibly so annoyed that he was having to entertain the clueless customer. “Now, at least. If you’re interested in learning now. Is this your first time to dive?”

“I’ve never done it before.”

“Where are you from?”


“Ah. Of course.”

I wondered where he was from. I’d traveled to other provinces before, encountered the different reactions to Manila, from admiration to ambivalence to disdain. I tried to place where he was in that spectrum; the look he gave me made me feel small, amateurish, but those were true anyway.

“Oh, no, I’m not here to learn to dive.”

“You’re not?” This caught him by surprise. “Why are you here then, Manila girl?”

“Basics,” I answered, trying to say it with conviction. “I want to learn to swim.”

“You’re in Boracay. Surrounded by water. You don’t know how to swim?”

I laughed; it was weak. “Best place to learn?”

On day seven out of ten, I went to this place to ask if they could teach me to swim.

At twenty-five years old, I was and had become a number of things already. Now I was a wannabe traveler, beach lover. I should have learned this, way before now.

“If you don’t offer basic swimming lessons, I’ll look somewhere else,” I said.

But I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I didn’t give much thought to what my instructor would look like—it shouldn’t have mattered—but now that I’d seen this guy I…

It mattered.

He thought it over. It felt like a long time.

“This is what you want to do?” he said, finally. “Today.”

God, what was the problem? Did they not offer it? And what was I doing, suddenly insisting? The time to walk away would be the zillionth time I was asked if this was what I wanted to do. But hearing my own question to myself from another person’s mouth changed its tone and flavor, cut it off from me entirely. It wasn’t my doubt anymore—it was someone else doubting me, and that brought up familiar bile.

“Why, everyone knows how to swim now? It’s beneath you to teach someone who comes up here ready to pay to learn?”

“I was going to say, before you interrupted me. It’s Valentine’s Day.”

My cheeks burned, not from the rising sun. “So what?”

“There’s a lot happening on the beach today. More fun things than committing to a class that lasts several hours.”

“I don’t care.” I was single. The Day of Hearts meant something else to me entirely. “Unless you have other plans.”

Maybe I shouldn’t fight with my potential instructor.

But he seemed okay with it. “Fine. We start today.”

“Awesome.” I was relieved one second, and scared/excited the next.

“What’s your name, Manila girl?”

“Ivy. What’s your name, Boracay guy?”

He didn’t expect that and it seemed forward, for sure. But he took it in stride, and actually smiled. “Diego.”

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