Super Typhoon Haiyan, one year on: Survivors struggling to get on with their lives

John Paul Lacandazo lost his parents and two brothers when Haiyan struck. He now lives with his grandfather. Mr Goco now has a house to call his own, but there are no street lights and no stores or clinics nearby. John Paul Aler with one of his siste
John Paul Lacandazo lost his parents and two brothers when Haiyan struck. He now lives with his grandfather. Mr Goco now has a house to call his own, but there are no street lights and no stores or clinics nearby. John Paul Aler with one of his sisters in their bunkhouse, which is slightly bigger than a Singaporean HDB flat's bomb shelter.ST PHOTOS: RAUL DANCEL
John Paul Lacandazo lost his parents and two brothers when Haiyan struck. He now lives with his grandfather. Mr Goco now has a house to call his own, but there are no street lights and no stores or clinics nearby. John Paul Aler with one of his siste
John Paul Lacandazo lost his parents and two brothers when Haiyan struck. He now lives with his grandfather. Mr Goco now has a house to call his own, but there are no street lights and no stores or clinics nearby. John Paul Aler with one of his sisters in their bunkhouse, which is slightly bigger than a Singaporean HDB flat's bomb shelter.ST PHOTOS: RAUL DANCEL
John Paul Lacandazo lost his parents and two brothers when Haiyan struck. He now lives with his grandfather. Mr Goco now has a house to call his own, but there are no street lights and no stores or clinics nearby. John Paul Aler with one of his siste
John Paul Lacandazo lost his parents and two brothers when Haiyan struck. He now lives with his grandfather. Mr Goco now has a house to call his own, but there are no street lights and no stores or clinics nearby. John Paul Aler with one of his sisters in their bunkhouse, which is slightly bigger than a Singaporean HDB flat's bomb shelter.ST PHOTOS: RAUL DANCEL

PALO (Leyte) - A year after Haiyan struck the central Philippines, the lives that the most powerful typhoon in history upended and changed forever have followed different courses.

Most survivors have moved on, while others are still looking for directions, but all feel that rebuilding their lives is something they will have to do on their own.

John Paul Aler is eight years old, but he has the body and brain of a toddler. He was born with growth hormone deficiency.

When Haiyan struck on Nov 8 last year, his 32-year-old mother, Perlas, was giving birth at a local hospital in Tacloban city to her fourth child.

John Paul and his two siblings were taken in by an uncle for the night. When the floodwater rose and turned into a raging river 6m deep, their uncle managed to get them onto the roof of a nearby warehouse.

They survived, but they have since been living in a bunkhouse in a temporary settlement that they share with more than 2,000 other survivors.

"It's a hard life, and we don't see anyone helping my son. The doctors tell me there's nothing they can do for him," John Paul's mother said.

Their family has been allocated a bunkhouse 8 sq m in size, just slightly bigger than the bomb shelter of an HDB flat in Singapore.

When it rains, the bunkhouse, which is nothing more than wood, tarpaulin and corrugated tin roofs, leaks and the narrow walkways surrounding it are caked in mud. When it doesn't rain and the sun is baking the land, the bunkhouse is like an oven.

The Alers' bunkhouse sits in a row with 19 others. Each row is allocated two toilets, which are shared by 50 people.

"The conditions in the bunkhouses remain very difficult," said Oxfam's humanitarian policy adviser Alison Kent.

She said that apart from overcrowding and poor sanitation, there have been instances of "gender-based violence" - peeping toms and inappropriate touching - due to inadequate lighting, especially along pathways leading to the latrines.

Then, there is the matter of permanent settlement. For some 14,500 families still living in temporary shelters, the only certainty is uncertainty.

"There's a lot of confusion and a lot of uncertainty for those people being targeted for relocation.

"They are not sure when they'll be resettled, to what site it will be, what livelihood opportunities will be there," said Ms Kent.

Mr Justino Goco, 51, is among the few who have been lucky enough to get a free home.

He, too, has a Haiyan story to tell.

He said he and his wife were struggling to stay afloat in floodwater. They were caught between slabs of wood and he thought they would drown, but two tyres suddenly popped out of the water. Those tyres saved their lives.

He was taken to an evacuation centre, and when there were calls for volunteers to build houses for a foundation run by a local TV network, he stepped forward.

The foundation offered him a deal: Put in 500 man hours, and get a house. He was the first to make that quota.

"I guess I'm lucky," he told The Straits Times as he lounged on a sofa he placed just outside his new house, a 40 sq m, single-storey concrete structure.

Still, Mr Goco baulked at suggestions that his life is once again "normal".

His house sits in the middle of a 2.5ha construction site. There are no street lights or nearby stores, schools, markets or clinics. It will take years for these amenities to come.

Mr Goco, a bus driver, said he also has yet to get a regular job.

Another boy also named John Paul was nine years old and still had his parents and two brothers last year. He is now 10 and alone.

His 58-year-old grandfather, Mr Pete Lacandazo, looks after him, along with a cousin and two uncles.

They refused to evacuate to a bunkhouse. Instead, his grandfather has been pooling all his children's and wife's death benefits and donations he received to rebuild his home.

Mr Lacandazo has so far managed to erect the hull of his house and build a wall and gate around it.

In the months after Haiyan, John Paul said, he would often dream about his parents and brothers, and he would wake up crying.

Now, he does not dream about them as much any more, he said.

He has gone back to school, and he sometimes keeps himself distracted by playing games at a nearby Internet shop.

He said he now dreams about being a policeman.

Asked why, he replied: "I want to save lives."