A Brit woman fell in love with a Filipino whilst travelling and had his baby - who he was unable to meet for two years - now the family are separated by 7,121 miles and waiting to reunite again.
Lorna Shackleton, 25, from Broadwell, Gloucestershire, fell head over heels for her Enric Perez, 28, whilst travelling around Southeast Asia with her best friend in May 2018.
She first locked eyes on Enric, a security guard, when she was visiting Pulangbato Falls in Dumaguete City, the Philippines.
The pair instantly hit it off and went for a hike together the next day.
Lorna was due to fly home, but she arranged to go back out to the Philippines to meet with Enric in September 2018 and they spent three months together, with Lorna flying home just before Christmas.
When she arrived back home, Lorna found out she was pregnant and made the difficult decision to stay put in the UK and go through her pregnancy without her partner.
Their daughter, Rosa Perez, now three, was born on 1st September 2019 at Gloucester Royal Hospital, weighing 7lbs 8oz and he was on facetime whilst she gave birth.
Lorna booked a flight to Dumaguete for April 2020 so her daughter could finally meet her dad at six months old, but Covid struck - postponing the meeting for two years.
Enric was overcome with emotion when he first met his daughter and now the couple are unsure what the future holds.
The couple got engaged in August 2022 and are taking each day as it comes. They hope Enric will be allowed a tourist visa to enter the UK and be with his daughter and fiancée.
Lorna, a waitress, said: “It was surreal when Enric finally met Rosa for the first time - he’d been longing for that moment for so long.
“We could only talk on video call for two years and it just became the new normal.
“The hardest thing is not being physically together. We are trying to get Enric a tourist visa so he can stay in the UK for a short while and I plan on going back out to the Philippines at the start of next year.”
When the couple first met at the waterfall outside of Dumaguete City, they felt an instant spark.
Lorna added: “He made me laugh so much and we went on a hike the next day.
"I was struggling because of the heat but Enric helped me the whole way."
Enric added: "Lorna wasn't used to the sun, I grabbed her hand and helped her all the way to the top - letting her take her time and breathe and that is where our romance started."
Lorna and Enric quickly fell for each other, but she had to return home to the UK.
They stayed in touch and spoke every day on the phone until Lorna decided to fly back out in September 2018.
Lorna stayed with his Enric and his family for the entire time and they made their relationship official.
“I flew home just before Christmas and I was already thinking about saving up to go again," she said.
“When I got home, I found out I was pregnant just after Christmas.
“I knew it was a possibility, but I was quite shocked, it was a lot to take on with us being so far apart.”
Lorna made the tough call to be apart from Enric during the entirety of her pregnancy and booked a flight to go back out in April 2020, when their daughter Rosa was older.
Rosa was born on 1st September 2019 at 8pm weighing 7lbs 8oz at Gloucester Royal Hospital.
Lorna had her mum, Louise Shackleton, 57, by her side and had Enric on video call.
She said: “I was with him on the phone but while I was in that moment, I wasn’t thinking too much.
“I was just really sad he missed it and he felt guilty he couldn’t be there - of course I felt the other way - it was overwhelming.”
Enric said: "It was very hard, you want to do something, but you can't - I couldn't even hold her hands."
Covid struck in March 2021 making international flights impossible and keeping Enric apart from his partner and daughter.
She added: “The Philippines had really strict rules - they weren't letting any visitors in.
“If we were married, I would’ve been able to get in, everything was halted.
“Doing everything over the phone became the new normal and that was a whole two years, it was really s***.”
Finally, in April 2022, when Rosa was two years old, she was able to meet her father for the first time.
Lorna said: “I was nervous, and my parents came with me so they could meet Enric and his family.
“I felt so nervous, and we had to stay a night in the capital, Manila, to wait for a connecting flight.
“It all hit me it had been so long, and he was meeting his daughter for the first time.”
The father and daughter met for the first time at Dumaguete Airport and Lorna described the surrealness of the moment.
Enric added: "I grabbed Rosa and she looked at me like she knew I was her poppa.
"I was overcome with emotion. I had been crying the whole day leading up to that moment."
Lorna said: “They had only ever seen each other through a screen, and it was amazing.
“She reacted really well as she is usually shy.
“It was surreal, he’d been longing for that moment - you could see it all with the smile on his face.
“The whole time we were apart was crazy, we had no idea when we would see each other because of the pandemic and now we appreciate things that bit more.
In August 2022, Enric proposed to Lorna surrounded by his friends and family in the Philippines.
“His parents organised a family dinner and we had an event room, we got really dressed up and Enric asked to take some photos together," Lorna said.
“There was a microphone and Enric grabbed it and proposed in front of everyone - it took me by surprise, but I loved it.”
Now Lorna is coming to grips with parenting alongside Enric after months of going it alone.
She said: “It sounds silly but when we were apart, our relationship grew.
“The adjustment now is learning to be parents together.”
The couple aren’t too sure what their long-term plan is but hope to be reunited one way or another - they wanted to apply for a couple visa but fell short of a few requirements.
Now they’re pinning their hopes on Enric obtaining a six-month tourist visa to be able to enter the UK and Lorna and Rosa plan to travel back out to the Philippines in the new year.
Lorna added: “Up until we went to see Enric, I underestimated how much it would hit Rosa.
“When we got back to the UK she said, ‘mummy what have we done with poppa, we’ve lost him.'”