TABACO CITY, Philippines—Meeting Pope Francis is every Catholic’s dream and it will come true for John Angelo de Dios Ortiz when the Pontiff visits the Philippines next month.
The 27-year-old native of Albay province has been chosen one of the delegates from the Diocese of Legazpi who will meet with the Holy Father because of his extraordinary story of faith, resilience and belief in himself despite a disability.
Ortiz has cerebral palsy but it does not stop him from being productive. He does cross-stitch using his feet, as well as normal people who do it with their hands.
Ortiz is now completing a cross-stitch of the Madonna Dolorosa that he will present to Pope Francis.
He has been praying hard that he will get to personally hand it to Francis during the Pope’s audience with various delegations from all over the country at Mall of Asia on Jan. 15, 2015.
The Madonna Dolorosa cross-stitch has been occupying most of Ortiz’s time in the last two months. At one point, when he was running short of thread, his mother, Herminia, traveled to Metro Manila to buy the materials he needed.
Asked what he would say to Francis if given the chance to meet the Pope, Ortiz paused then, teary-eyed, said: “If it will happen, I will be the luckiest person in the world. If I had the chance to give my masterpiece and talk to the Pope, I would ask him to pray for the sick, especially for people with disabilities and women being battered by their husbands.”
Meeting with Pope
Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi said a meeting between Ortiz and the Pope was being worked out.
“The chance is high that he’ll be able to have the privilege of personally giving his work to the Pope,” Baylon said.
Baylon said the diocese decided to include Ortiz, his parents and siblings in the delegation when it learned that it was allowed to bring up to 100 delegates to the audience with the Pope.
Ortiz’s parents—Edgar, 56, and Herminia, 60—operate a family-owned fashion jewelry business.
He has two siblings, John Carlo, 28, and Cathy, 25.
Ortiz, the middle child, was born premature on Feb. 27, 1987, and was later diagnosed with celebral palsy.
Although wheelchair-bound since childhood and unable to move most parts of his body, Ortiz has never been one to just do nothing. He attended a special school without much prodding, according to his mother.
He graduated from the Special Education (SPED) Center of San Lorenzo High School in Tabaco City.
Herminia said her son had always been interested in the arts since he was young, but it was not until he was about 12, or in Grade 6, when he showed interest in cross-stitching.
With encouragement from his cousin Maria Theresa de Dios Laco, he began to do cross-stitching using his feet, which he uses for anything that requires the use of the hands.
Laco said Ortiz started with simple and small patterns. He seemed to be enjoying the activity and his work progressed to pictures of animals (particularly dogs), cartoon characters (Snow White and Hello Kitty). Then he shifted to religious characters, particularly images of saints and angels, she said.
“I feel my life is complete when I make religious patterns,” Ortiz said.
Not long after he mastered his craft, Ortiz sold one of his works for P6,000. Since then, it has become a source of livelihood for him, Laco said.
Aside from cross-stitching, Ortiz is also good at painting, drawing and writing, using his feet.
Herminia said that despite her son’s disability, he always wanted to be of help to their family.
And when his talent was developed, the family supported him by providing him the materials he needed for his work, she said.
“The [proceeds from the] sale of my artwork go to my family, excluding the cost of materials. I treasure my family. This is the very reason why I’m acting like a normal person even it is the opposite. My principle in life is life must go on. Go, go, go despite my disability,” Ortiz said.
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