by Joel V. Ocampo
More than a year ago, on January 17, 2022, Sebastian Esai Eco Eviota, also known as “Baste” from Davao City received a letter from Swiss Guard Colonel Christoph Graf. In the said letter, Baste was informed that he was formally admitted to the Pontifical Swiss Guard of the Vatican. Then on May 6, 2023, Baste and 23 other new recruits were welcomed by the Pontifical Swiss Guard, during an elaborate swearing-in ceremony at the Courtyard of Saint Damasus in the Vatican, in an event to commemorate the heroic sacrifice of 147 Swiss Guards who died protecting Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome in 1527. Present during the event were the families of the newly admitted Swiss Guards, and delegates of the Swiss Confederation and Swiss Bishops.
In August 1998, Baste was born in Davao City. His father, Diomedes, is from Surigao City, while his mother Editha Eco, who was from Agusan del Sur, passed away when Baste was one year old. Baste was introduced in the military by his grandfather, retired judge Diomedes Eviota Sr. In 2009, he moved to Switzerland together with her elder sister. While in Switzerland, Baste became an active member of the Youths for Christ in Europe. After he finished two-year basic training and served in the 13th Infantry Battalion, Baste became second lieutenant of the Swiss Army.
Although Baste is the second Filipino to be included in the Swiss Guards, (Vincent Lüthi, a Swiss-Filipino, whose mother is from Cebu being the first) Baste is the first member of Swiss Guards of full Filipino origin.
The Swiss Guard was founded by Pope Julius II in 1506. It is a military body made up of Swiss citizens, that are responsible for the safety of the pope. Often called “the world’s smallest army,” they serve as personal escorts to the pontiff and as watchmen for Vatican City and the pontifical villa of Castel Gandolfo. They are also tasked to accompany the pope on apostolic journeys and to protect the College of Cardinals during the vacant see.
Pinoy Swiss Guard Baste with Fr. Alvin Paras, OFM during the Swearing-in ceremony of the Pontifical Swiss Guards on May 6, 2023
Exhortation to the New Swiss Guards
Before the swearing-in ceremony, the new Swiss Guards had a meeting with His Holiness Pope Francis. In his address to the Pontifical Swiss Guards, Pope Francis encouraged them “to make good use of the time available to you to learn how to recognize the inspiring and joyful presence of the Risen Lord in your lives, through reading Holy Scripture, meditating on spiritual texts - even during some quieter guard duty, celebrating the Sunday Eucharist and partaking in the Sacraments.”
Pope Francis also reminded them, “Your mission here in the Vatican is an avenue that the Lord has opened up for you to live out your Baptism and give joyful witness to your faith in Christ.” Pope Francis recalled the faith of the new Swiss Guards, who according to him is “A faith that you learned in your family, cultivated in your parish, and that manifests the intensity of the bond of Swiss Catholics to the Church of Rome.”
The Swiss Guards were also reminded by the Pope of their call “to bear witness to this faith in your various places of service. In the faces of those you approach every day, be they members of the Roman Curia or pilgrims and tourists, you see many invitations to recognize and share God's love for each one. May every situation, every encounter be an opportunity to put the Gospel of Christ into practice, to learn from the Lord and to live fraternal love in his name and by his Spirit.”