Updated: Sep 12
By Betsy von Atzigen, Switzerland
Sebastian Eviota, 3rd from right, among the 2022 recruits of the Pontifical Swiss Guard - Päpstliche Schweizergarde Facebook
Sebastian Esai Eco Eviata has just made church and civic history by becoming the first member of the Vatican elite Swiss Guards of full Filipino origin. Despite the early loss of his mother, the absence of his father, a fragmented childhood spent across Mindanao and eventually continents - the enduring love, inspiration, and protection of his three big families prevailed.
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Photo by Oliver Sittel, Päpstliche Schweizergarde FB
The Swiss Guards
The Guardia Svizzera (Italian) or Swiss Guards is the centuries-old corps of young, Swiss soldiers responsible for the safety of the pope to the point of sacrificing one’s life if necessary, the Vatican, and the pontifical villa of Castel Gandolfo. They are employed by the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of the pope to whom they pledge fealty in a ceremony at Belvedere Court. The Swiss Guards are independent of the Swiss armed forces.
One can’t miss those tall, fit, and good-looking Swiss guards in the Vatican grounds wearing striped tunics of bright red, dark blue and yellow colours of the Medici family which have been in continuous use from the Renaissance-era to this day.
Called to serve
Early this year, 24-year-old Eviota found his undaunted and unique calling to the Vatican elite Swiss Guards. He was heartily welcomed in a letter by Christoph Graf, commander of the Swiss Guard based at the Vatican in January 2022. Prior to that, Sebastian served as second Lieutenant in the Swiss Army, Infantry 13th Battalion in a two-year basic Army course. He has since made a stir in the European and Philippine media.
“Baste” to an affectionate family, is the son of Diomedes ’Brady’ Eviota, a former journalist from Surigao City who migrated to Switzerland in 2006 and the late Editha Eco, also a journalist from Esperanza, Agusan del Sur.
He was born in August 1998, Davao City and relocated to Switzerland at age 9 with his older sister Sophia then 13, on a family reunion visa. Sebastian’s mother passed away when he was 2 years old.
His devout Catholic maternal grandparents attended Holy Mass nearly every day in their parish church, about a hundred metres away from home. Their way of life surely made a deep impression on the growing Baste. The same maternal grandparents supported the young, grieving family over the loss of their mother.
When Brady left for Switzerland, the children went to live with their paternal grandparents - Diomedes Sr, the late Surigao City regional trial court judge. It was his grandpa’s intervention that the seed of Baste’s career was planted and nurtured.
The Eviota family has since settled at the quartier Bumpliz in the Swiss capital city of Bern, along with well-loved stepmom Maria Theresa Angob. Baste became part of the Youth for Christ (YFC) Europe group in Bern and was actively involved as a council member of the English-speaking Roman Catholic Community of the Bruder Klaus Church, also in Bern.
The young Eviota completed his apprenticeship as Hotel Specialist in Bern and last worked as Customer Service Supervisor at supermarket chain Migros. His sister Sophia is making her career as sous-chef in the same business organisation.
Sebastian Eviota moves on.
His Swiss citizenship, Catholic faith, young age, approx. height of 1.74m (5 ft. 8 in), professional diploma and being an unmarried male made him eligible to the Swiss Guards. His two-year basic Swiss Army experience, also a pre-requisite groomed him for more training ahead including VIP protection, crowd control, use of modern weaponry, counterterrorism techniques plus the Italian language. His batch of 2022 is scheduled to take the oath on 6th May 2023.
Filipino roots among the Guards
Two years prior to Eviota, Swiss-Filipino Vincent Lüthi made headlines when he joined the Swiss Guards. His father comes from canton Vaud of Switzerland while his mother hails from Cebu, Philippines.
“Serving the pope and the Catholic Church is more than a job. It is a vocation. May many young Catholics see their work or jobs as a vocation — a calling from the Lord in fulfillment of his mission on earth,” Bishop Rex Andrew Alarcon of the Commission on Youth was quoted on Luthi’s assignment.
Laudable Sebastian Eviota, like Vincent Lüthi, is a tough, audacious young man with roots in the Philippines who has answered the call to serve Christ’s Vicar on earth and successor of St. Peter and the Catholic Church.
Sebastian Eviota with family in Milan 2022 (photo from Eviota family files)
Sebastian Eviota with family in Switzerland 2022 (photo from Eviota family files)