Cebu News

Testimony moves IEC delegates

Kristine B. Quintas/FPL - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - At the age of eight, she should have been learning how to ride a bike, read a book, attend school or play with friends, but extreme poverty deprived Ma. Georgia Cogtas of these childhood experiences.

She was instead breaking her back to fill their empty stomachs after being abandoned by their parents.

 Cogtas, youngest of se-ven siblings, assumed the responsibilities left by their parents. She said their parents got separated. Her father abandoned them and eventually their mother also left them. 

Two of her elder sisters got pregnant and also left them. Her other elder siblings were hooked into drugs forcing her to provide for them.

Cogtas said she had to collect scraps and garbage to survive. She recalled waking up early in the morning to go to the dumpsites, streets, and construction areas in Talamban to look for scrap metal, used electronics, and clothes.

She learned how to navigate through trash heaps quickly and efficiently.

 Her poor hands got bruises and cuts from broken glasses and sharp objects mixed in garbage. But she was never discouraged.

The money she earned from selling scraps helped her finished high school and fed her hungry siblings.

 She learned to be strong like steel for her siblings and that sometimes she even forget that she was only a child longing for love and care from their parents.

 She said it was very painful going home without parents and elder sisters to look after her, cook food, and dress her wounds. The shadows of her hungry siblings always greeted her every time she gets home from her every day struggle.

“I learned not to cry. I learned to be tough. My face was always facing down. I forgot to pray. I experienced a disconnect from society and from God,” Cogtas said.

 Her life started to change after receiving a scholarship grant from Dilaab Foundation Inc., a non-profit volunteer-driven Christian movement.

 The organization gave her “hope.” It trained her also with catechism and values formation. Her years with Dilaab brought back her confidence in herself, in other people, and in God. 

“There is no hurt or pain and struggle bigger than my God. I found healing,” she said.

She persevered more until she finished college with flying colors in October last year with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Psychology at the University of Cebu-Main. 

She now works as Dilaab volunteer helping street children to bring back their self-confidence, trust and faith in God.

 Cogtas shared her story in between tears during a testimony before the 15,000 IEC delegates at the IEC Pavilion Friday.

“All that is broken can be restored. All that is lost can be found and replaced with something better. All that is destroyed can be fixed,” she said.

In her testimony, Cogtas said she wants to correct the mistaken opinion that poverty is limited to not having enough material wealth because it also includes the experience of rejection and indifference.

 Cogtas said she found joy, self-fulfillment and completeness after reaching out to street children. The street children, she said, are her “mirror.”

 She said it is only when the Bread is broken that it can be shared and offered to others.

 “It is in our brokenness that we are able to share with others,” she said.

 “God let us experience brokenness so that in our brokenness we can compassionately be in union with our suffering brothers and sisters so as to serve a greater purpose,” she said.

 She then resembled her hands with the hands of Jesus on the Cross. Her sweaty hands, she said, caused her the “first and not the last days of rejection and humiliation.”

 But while her hands symbolize her brokenness, Cogtas beamed with a smile, considered them as her hidden treasures of creativity as she learned to draw caricatures of people through them.

 She transformed her brokenness into joy through helping homeless children and those who had lost hope in life.

 Cogtas has been giving training and formation every Saturday to at least 54 children, including the 9-year-old Daniel Cabrera, who was photographed studying under the light of a fast food chain outlet in Mandaue City.

 The underprivileged children have been her source of strength and inspiration.

 “If you love and nurture them dearly, you will also feel the love and be loved and protected. They inspired me and I started to see the beauty of a family with them,” she said.

 “They are a mirror of me. Each one of us has painful story to tell. This is not my story alone. We shared the same story of hurt, agony and brokenness but we also shared the same happiness sourced from Him,” she added.

With her testimony, Cogtas moved the thousands of delegates from 71 countries to the 51st International Eucharistic Congress into tears.

Purple Che, an IEC delegate from Taiwan, was one of them. She said the story of Cogtas and other poor children made her realize how important it is to give love to others fairly without any alibis or reasons.

 “They moved my heart. We are human beings so we should learn how to share what we have in our life because we cannot abandon the people who needed daily bread,” she said.  (FREEMAN)

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