CEBU City, Jan. 24, 2015 – If only because of the Rosary hanging on his rear-view window, one would assume taxi driver Richard Hijapon is a Catholic.
He is not.
While he has been member of the Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) Church since birth—and an active one at that—he has enormous respect for Catholics who are sincere about their faith, especially the delegates of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC).
“No. I’m not the kind who passes judgement on people who happen to believe differently from me,” he stressed in Filipino, as he drove past the Minor Basilica of the Santo Niño, the birthplace of Catholic Christianity in the Philippines.
In fact, the 26-year old soon-to-be-married counts among his many good friends no less than a priest, Fr. Ben Alforque of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC).
“I’m happy that I’m able to meet Catholics who are kind and who practice what they preach,” he added.
The church Hijapon had lately been picking up passengers from is near Plaza Independencia, where pilgrims from all over the world flocked Sunday to take part in the opening Mass of the week-long religious gathering.
More similar than different
According to him, he would rather focus on what is common between the two Christian groups like the Holy Trinity than on what separates them
“If Catholics believe that God is three Persons, we also do,” he shared.
Hijapon went on to express admiration for Catholics and those of other religions who take time off their busy routine to worship God.
“It is important that we find time to spend with the Lord. We always think of how to earn money, or waste our energy on trivial matters, but many of us unfortunately forget about the most important, which is the state of our souls,” he said.
“We should always look after our spiritual health so that we will attain salvation,” he added.
For those belonging to his denomination, the young man from Bantayan Island explained Sabbath means everything.
“The Sabbath is to us SDAs what Sunday is to Catholics. It’s our day of obligation,” he said.
While they do not exactly have what Catholics call the Eucharist, SDA members hold a symbolic meal-sharing.
Asked what he thinks about the worldwide religious gathering, he said he welcomes it since it is a privilege for all Cebuanos regardless of creed to be hosting an event of such magnitude.
“I support IEC. We, SDAs, also conduct similar gatherings, but we never hear any negative remarks from the Catholic hierarchy,” he added. (Raymond A. Sebastián / CBCP News)