Love offers fresh dreams for Philippine typhoon survivors

Love offers fresh dreams for Philippine typhoon survivors

TACLOBAN, Philippines - Jovelyn Luana and Joel Aradana plan to light candles at a mass grave to mark one year since Super Typhoon Haiyan stole both their families, but they will do it hand-in-hand, sharing a new love that promises fresh dreams.

Luana lost all of her six children and her husband of 13 years when Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, thundered across her coastal town in the central Philippines.

About one kilometre (half a mile) away, the same immense storm surges that savaged Luana's future also destroyed Aradana's shanty fishing home as they carried his wife and two of his children to oblivion.

The storm on November 8 killed or left missing more than 7,350 people, the world's deadliest natural disaster last year, as it laid to waste dozens of already poor farming and fishing communities.

For the next few months, Luana and Aradana endured with hundreds of thousands of other typhoon survivors tormenting grief.

Luana would have killed herself except she could not find anywhere high enough to tie a rope that had been scavenged from rubble.

Then they found each other.

Power of two

They met at a cash-for-work programme run by a foreign aid group six months ago, with a joke from the incomprehensibly effervescent Luana borne from their similar first names and shared tragedies an unlikely icebreaker.

"I told him: 'I am a Jo, you are a Jo. I am a widow and you are also a widower. So we were meant for each other'," Luana said with a big smile as they stood outside their shanty hut recently just a few metres (yards) from the sea on the outskirts of Tacloban, one of the worst hit cities.

Luana, 31, said she unexpectedly felt hope after meeting Aradana, nine years her senior.

"I realised we both had similar values... and he is loving, he is caring, he is responsible," Luana said, pointing out Aradana worked hard as a fisherman and construction worker, yet also helped do the laundry and cook.

"He would make a good father." Aradana cited companionship and the power of two over one as initial attractions.

"Since she likes me and I like her, I told her it is much better that we live together so we can move on with our lives together, rather than doing it alone," said Aradana, who speaks much more quietly than Luana and is seemingly less able to mask sadness.

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