MANILA, Philippines – Why Jessica Cox was born without arms is a mystery. No one, not even the doctors, could detect or anticipate that Inez Macabare Cox would give birth to an armless baby girl. But this mystery is one Jessica Cox no longer seeks the answers to. (READ: Jessica Cox: ‘It is truly a gift to be different’)
Her brother, Jason Cox, watched Jessica grow up. “We still teased her, we didn’t treat her any different,” he said. But life wasn’t that simple for Jessica. She admitted being self conscious was a daily struggle.
She tried to hide the fact that she was different by wearing prosthetic arms. But at the age of 14, she decided – or realized – that she didn’t need them. “It was an important critical moment in my life,” Jessica said. “Self-acceptance is about accepting who I am and not needing fake arms.”
Not only could she do the same things people with arms could do, she could do more – and do it better.
But it didn’t come easy. She would spend hours practicing and perfecting how to do seemingly easy things people with arms and hands take for granted. From tying her shoes, playing the piano, signing her name, putting on her own hat and opening a can of soda.
After that she started doing bigger things. She learned how to drive a car using her feet, she learned to surf, took diving lessons, and then she became the world’s first armless pilot.
Jessica Cox arrived in the Philippines on Tuesday, February 24, for a two-and-a-half-week visit. Aside from public appearances, Jessica is revisiting places that are important to her roots, especially the Eastern Visayas.
“Maraming Jessica Cox sa Pilipinas,” said Lalaine Guanzon, vice president of the Federation of Persons with Disabilities of Makati. Guanzon believes that persons with disabilities (PWD) can draw inspiration and hope from Jessica. Guanzon believes Jessica will bring hope to the typhoon victims. (There are many Jessica Cox’s in the Philippines)
After hosting a fundraising event in Pasig City for PWD typhoon victims, Jessica and her husband Patrick Chamberlain were ready to return to Guiuan. She flew to Tacloban first on an Air Asia flight on February 26.
She doesn’t know what to expect. It is the first time she is visiting her mother’s home town of Bobon and Guiuan in Eastern Samar after Yolanda. She is looking for answers. What really happened to aunt who drowned and the house they left behind? What happened to other persons with disabilities who were victims of the storm? Or the people who lost their limbs or are now disabled?
Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) first made landfall in Guiuan on Nov 8, 2013. The area was flattened and left without food for days.
Right after the storm, Jessica began raising money for victims through Handicap International.
“I wish my mother was here,” she said. Cox hardly travels without her. “We had great memories there.”
“I don’t know if I’m ready for what we’re going to see,” she added.
“The world supported the Philippines right after the storm, but right now, the attention is dissipating,” Jessica said during the press conference. Jessica hopes that by going to Eastern Samar, she can see the situation on the ground and use her influence to bring back the world’s attention to an area that still desperately needs it. – Rappler.com