Armless pilot Jessica Cox in PH to help PWDs in Haiyan areas

Ryan Macasero
Jessica Cox returns to the Philippines for a 2 1/2 week visit

ARRIVAL. Jessica Cox arrives at NAIA Terminal 1. Photo by Ryan Macasero/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Fil-Am Jessica Cox, the world’s first armless pilot, is back in the Philippines, this time to put the spotlight on the special needs of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), including her mother’s hometown.

Cox arrived with her husband, Patrick Chamberlain at NAIA Terminal 1 at around 10:05 pm Monday, February 24, from Los Angeles aboard Japan Airlines Flight JL61. (READ: Jessica Cox returns to PH)

She was last here in February 2013 to visit Guiuan in Eastern Samar, the home town of her mother. The town has since become a familiar word after Yolanda made its first landfall there last November 8 before it wiped out many communities in the Visayas. The typhoon claimed the life of one of Cox’s relatives.

Cox, 31, holds the Guinness World Record for the person without arms to hold a pilot’s license. She was born armless because of a rare birth defect. She started to become a globally recognized figure not because her condition, but because her condition has not stopped her from succeeding.

Aside from being a pilot, Cox is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a diver, surfer, equestrian, gymnast and tap dancer. In 2013 she was recognized as one of the “10 Best Pilots” of Plane and Pilot Magazine and was awarded at the Inspiration Awards for Women in 2013.

“I’m very proud of the confidence I’ve developed over the years,” Cox said during the airport press conference. “I’ve been able to use it as an opportunity to inspire others. The journey of self acceptance is what I’m most proud about.”

Cox has visited 18 different countries to give motivational speeches and to advocate for PWDs. 

PHOTO OP. Jessica Cox and husband Patrick Chamberlain receive the media at NAIA Terminal 1. Photo by Ryan Macasero/Rappler

Last November 29, she was at the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC to discuss raising funds for Yolanda victims. She began raising funds for PWD typhoon victims through Handicap International.

“It’s even more difficult for victims of PWDs and you’re hit with natural disasters like Yolanda,” Cox told Rappler. “It’s hard enough to have a challenge and physical disability and have to deal with the infrastructure around you, because mobility is a huge deal for people with disabilities,” Cox added. The fundraiser for PWD typhoon victims will be held in cooperation with the Ortigas Foundation. 

Handicap International was active in visiting hospitals after Haiyan struck. Its main function was to identify the needs of victims “in terms of emergency rehabilitation” to prevent or limit the “onset of long-term disabilities.” They also work with emergency teams to ensure that persons with disabilities are not excluded from access to humanitarian aid. They were also a sponsor of this trip.

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia said victims, especially those who had to undergo amputations, should look up to Cox for inspiration.

“Jessica has risen from adversity and can definitely inspire our people, especially those who are experiencing adversity as a result of the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in the Central Philippines,” Cuisia said.

Cox will be in the Philippines for two and half weeks. Next week, her team will visit and assist in recovery operations in Guiuan. –

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Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.