Her story has too often been likened to a fairy tale. But it’s not. Even Cinderella did not live in a garbage dump, and Belle was never molested by the beast. Princess Aurora was pricked by one needle; Snow White was surrounded by adoring dwarves.
Julie Cox, on the other hand, was raped twice and spent two years scavenging scrap metal at the former Subic Naval Base with a sickly infant son. At 15, she was a guinea pig for medical students as she battled leukemia, hepatitis, hemorrhagic fever and other infections. When she finally left her small town in Quezon to become an undocumented maid in the United States, she had no friends and had to give up her son for adoption.
And yet, she made her own happy-ever-after.
“If you can see through your suffering, you will realize that it is also your opportunity for great joy. We are not born to be miserable,” Cox writes in her book, I Ordered My Future Yesterday.
The 9th of 12 children, Cox had to quit school in seventh grade. She was heartbroken because she exceled in class and wanted to someday travel the world to write and take pictures. Instead she ended up in a hosiery factory in Manila whe she was 15, and later in hursing homes, restaurants, shops and houses in New York and Pennsylvania when she was 18.
Having seen her mother’s burden of a dozen children and a husband who gambled away what little money and land they had, Cox decided she did not want to get married.
And yet, she did. She found a man who not only loved her but carried her through hell and back.
Now 62 and retired in her garden resort in San Antonio, Quezon, Cox devotes her life to missions, making sure the people in her town do not hungry and homeless.
She shares with us her journey.
When and Why did you decide to write a book?
I wrote the book one month after my February 2011. I’ve always felt that I should share triumphs over my tribulations. As Emily Dickinson said, “If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.” There is someone out there, a lost and broken soul, who will be inspired reading my story.
What was it like recalling the tragic things that happened to you and letting people know about them?
It was like going through a building, I wanted to get out as fast as I could… It was very heart-wrenching. It was like reliving the agonies. I suffered all over again. I dug out the unwanted debris of my life shamelessly to inspire true hope.
How different is your life now from your life, say, 20 years ago?
Twenty years ago, I was still caught with things of the material world. I was worrying about not having enough savings to last me a lifetime. Now, I realize that there will never be enough if I don’t have contentment and acceptance, and that I will never be truly rich if I cannot give and share my blessings.
Are you one of those Filipinos who’ve always wanted to go and work abroad?
It was not about wanting to go and work abroad but my desire to earn money to financially support my family and hopefully to save money to pursue higher education.
Have you ever questioned the existence or goodness of God?
Yes! First when I was growing up and witnessed our poverty; second was when I was suffering from leukemia, infection of the liver and hemorrhagic fever; last, when my son and I were going through severe illnesses and financial hardships.
Were there people you know who inspired and helped you through your darkest days?
I cannot recall anyone except for my parents. My mother and I did not communicate heart to heart but her perseverance through difficulties inspired me, seeing how she survived having 12 children, her hard work and diligence. I admired my father for his generosity, for always sharing with others in any way he can, whether it’s his time, food or money. I also admire his intellect and his biblical wisdom.
What attitude do you have that you think got you to where you are now?
My perseverance gave me tenacity to never give up on all my dreams.
You said in your book that you didn’t believe in marriage. How did your husband finally convince you to marry him?
It is not that I did not believe in marriage. It is more of doubting my capacity to understand the sanctity of staying married after witnessing the difficulties my mother and father went through raising all of us.
How is your son now? Do you have any news of him?
My son is in Fort Myers, Florida and has a boat restoration business. I visit him occasionally. He calls me Chinese fortune cookie for giving him fortune cookie-like advice on many subjects. He is very appreciative of my sacrifices for him.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
Jeremiah 29:11. Believe in God. Everything happens for a reason. What sometimes breaks us makes us stronger. The sun comes after the storm.