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Interview with McJarwin Cayacap — National Events Director/PR Officer at HAPI — Humanist Alliance Philippines, International


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/06/13

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How did religion influence your own family background? What was it?

McJarwin Cayacap: I was baptized a Catholic as an infant. My mother was a devout Catholic; my father, so-so. But my aunts who lived with us were more devout than my mother. I was sent to schools run by Catholic orders — the Dominican Order, the Order of Saint Benedict and the Missionaries of La Salette. As a kid, I was a member of ‘Kids for Christ’ of the local diocese, while my parents were members of ‘Couples for Christ’. Other couples would come to our house, and organize prayer meetings and bible studies. My sister and brother were born in a Catholic hospital. When I had to get some stitches, my mother would send me to the same Catholic hospital, and would let nuns pray over me during surgeries. I did say that my father was a so-so; he left for South Korea when I was 5, so I have no idea of his religious practices when he worked there.

Jacobsen: How did religion enter your young life if at all?

Cayacap: The schools I went to had a general course for Religion or Christian Living Education. We would study passages and stories from the Bible, the Seven Sacraments, the Ten Commandments and the Eight Beatitudes. We would memorize prayers and litanies. We were expected to identify every piece that is on the Eucharistic table. We were required to attend Sunday mass and write a reflection paper about the homily. I was also a member of the school choir. I would give Bible readings at the lectern during school mass. We were required to dress up for the first Friday mass every month. That’s how religion entered my young life, and I accepted it whole-heartedly because I did not know better.

Jacobsen: Do you recall any moments of explicitly identifying as a humanist or an atheist?

Cayacap: I started intentionally missing the Sunday mass and not saying a single prayer. I felt it was a burden to make sure I do this and that on Sundays, before meal and before sleep. “Why can’t I just be good to myself and others?”, I asked myself. Whenever I was stuck in traffic, I would stare blankly at the window and think of the highs and lows of my life. Then, it dawned on me that something never made sense. When I had the opportunity to study the times of King Henry VIII of England and Pope Alexander VI, I grew disappointed with the Holy Mother Church. It was in 2014 when I first identified as atheist, but learning about secular humanism was the turning point of my life.

Jacobsen: When did you find the formal humanist community or at least the non-religious community in general in the Philippines?

Cayacap: Since I identified as atheist, I had been looking for people like me. I remember following Filipino Freethinkers and attending one of their film screenings in 2010. But since they mostly do meet-ups, talks and podcasts, I decided to look elsewhere. That’s when I found Humanist Alliance Philippines, International. But I did not sign up immediately. I was giving it much thought because I was very busy with work, too. It was not until 2017 when I finally had the time to busy myself with something other than work.

Jacobsen: How has Marissa Torres Langseth been an inspiration for you?

Cayacap: I met Marissa after I met HAPI. I signed up as a volunteer who was eager to learn how else he could contribute to humanity. I never thought the founder nor any of the leaders would have reason to talk to me until my first assignment in December of 2017. I was sent to a city outside Manila for a few days to represent HAPI. The city was having its first LGBT summit, and HAPI was a donor. I took photos and wrote an article about it, and that was how I got Marissa’s and the other leaders’ attention. Eventually, I and Marissa started chatting and learned about each other’s life story. What has inspired me is her courage to make HAPI happen and keep it despite a history of treachery and misgivings. She never lost the heart to protect her fellow Filipinos from the age-old misery disguised as religion. It is no easy undertaking but she still does it no matter what.

Jacobsen: What seem like some of the more important moves needed in the non-religious activism in the Philippines for increased equality of the humanists, atheists, agnostics, and other freethinkers?

Cayacap: There are a number of secular groups in the Philippines, but I must say it is a shame that they never have a united voice when asked about issues and policies that concern the common Filipino. We have, however, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. The conference speaks for the Catholic faith about almost every issue and policy there are, and that is exactly what HAPI would like to have beginning in Manila, the nation’s very capital. Soon, humanists, atheists, agnostics and other freethinkers can formally convene. Like the Congress, there will be representatives and committees as well. On a side note, HAPI has been offered to seek party-list representation in the Lower House. We are studying this offer very carefully now. All of us are on the same secular side; all we have to do is come together.

Jacobsen: What are your hopes for the future of the movements in the Philippines and elsewhere for that matte?


Cayacap: I hope that there will be a way for all secular groups to know each other and collaborate on a grand scale so we can approach every part of the world the appropriate way, and eventually get to the hearts and minds of many societies. In a decade or so, we expect to see more people identifying as non-religious. We can only attribute this to recent breakthroughs in science, and a more critically thinking generation of humans. Just the same, I hope for a united voice throughout the world.

Jacobsen: How can people start to get involved in their local non-religious community?

Cayacap: At HAPI, we walk the talk. We even act more than talk, and that is how we think people can best involve themselves in us. So, if a person is willing to volunteer time and effort for a good cause in spite of a rather busy schedule, then he or she is ever welcome in HAPI. For those who are not comfortable with physical activities, you can still join HAPI, especially in Manila, as we will do regular meet-ups to discuss important issues beginning this month of June. And for those not in the Philippines, know exactly what you can do — your natural talents and acquired skills — and find a local non-religious community where you can use some or all of those. That is how you get to love what you do while inspiring goodness. That is how I am having a great time now with HAPI.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, McJarwin.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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