Fil-Am armless pilot to aid 'Yolanda' survivors

Posted at 02/26/14 3:38 PM

Jessica Cox and her husband Patrick Chamberlain meet Philippines AirAsia CEO Maan Hontiveros.

MANILA, Philippines – Jessica Cox is on another mission, this time travelling to her mother's hometown in Eastern Samar and other areas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan).

Cox and her husband Patrick Chamberlain are in the country to extend support and assistance to families and persons with disabilities (PWDs) who survived the typhoon.

"We want to raise awareness to the fact that there are survivors, families, they still need our support. What we're hoping to do is express our support and bring hope as best we can," Cox said on Wednesday.

Cox is working with the Handicap International to support the group's effort in Yolanda-hit Tacloban city in Leyte and in Eastern Samar.

"They have some recipients that they have been working with who have disabilities. So, we will be meeting with them, those who were disabled because of the typhoon or those who have disabilities and survived this typhoon," Cox said.

The goal is, Cox added, to personally meet the group's recipients and also "just to show our support and awareness to the rest of the world".

The couple and a team documenting the life of Jessica Cox, will be staying in Tacloban City for two days and spend another two days in Guiuan.

Licensed pilot Jessica Cox and husband Patrick Chamberlain talk to AirAsia Zest pilots before their flight to Tacloban City.

Cox's mother, Inez, hails from Bobon in the municipality of Mercedes in Easter Samar.

It will be Cox's first time to return to Eastern Samar after the typhoon. She and her husband last went there in February of last year.

"I remember when we first heard of this typhoon and we were praying that our family was ok because my mother's family is still there, near Guiuan, about 20 minutes, Bobon, Mercedes, Easter Samar, and we have families also in Guiuan so we'll be seeing them and hearing what they went through and also help support," she said.

Over 6,000 people have died and scores are still missing when the typhoon struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013.

Cox's aunt was among the thousands who perished in the typhoon.

"And I do have one aunt who did pass away from the surge. She drowned in the surge and that was very hard to hear. But there are so many other lives that even if we don't personally know them, our hearts go out to the families and we continue to be there to show our support," she said.

Cox said she has so many fond memories of her mother's hometown where she first visited when she was just eight years old.

"We have so many fond memories of Guiuan. The beach, our family, the good food, fresh food..it was always like a tropical paradise...it will always be that," she said.

But she admitted that it's going to be hard to see the aftermath of the typhoon in her "tropical paradise".

"All those memories come back to me, but when we go there I don't know what to expect," she said.

She said Handicap International helped her team by telling them what to expect, "what we will be up against" when they reach Samar and Leyte.

"I guess there's really no way to prepare ourselves fully for what we're gonna see and experience and we will just do our best," Cox said.

The 31-year old motivational speaker proved that there is nothing impossible with being born without arms. Aside from holding the distinction of being the first person to earn a pilot's license with her disability, and setting a world record at that, she is also a martial arts expert, a licensed driver, and a certified scuba diver.

"I just would like to say to everyone and to the rest of the world, the victims and the families still need our support, and right now, it's very critical that we show them," Cox said. "It's been four months and all the media is starting to go away, but we need to bring back the attention to what's needed and that is to support and help the victims and these families".

Cox granted the media interview after touring the AirAsia Zest's new office and meeting the pilots, cabin and ground crew before their morning flight to Tacloban City.

AirAsia Zest is supporting Cox and her team's efforts in the Philippines.