In light of the passing of MEGA’s Founding Editor, this writer looks back at their history and how Sari Yap has unknowingly taught him to see the greatness within and to let the light shine through.
A social media invention of the newer millennium, the Instagram profile of Sari Yap reads: Reality can be grander than our dreams! Inside us is greatness and light, just waiting to shine through!
There isn’t a more appropriate person to say this than the Founding Editor of MEGA magazine, the Philippines’ Best Fashion Magazine. For without her dreams, undeterred spirit, and guiding light, the culmination of her vision that we constantly work on—one that has seen a high of highs and of course, the inescapable barrel scraping lows—wouldn’t even have been a remote possibility.
Navigating through the early years of the magazine, a narrative that has placed itself securely as legend at this point, as well as feeling and learning her way to what the brand has grown to be today, Sari Yap is as inspiring as the stories have painted her to be, if not so, so much more.
We all have our own little pockets of precious moments with Sari, whether it is a quick interface in the time it takes to get to the 18th floor of our office, one that has truly left anyone in a state of sweat-induced panic, forcing us to stutter and stammer until relief comes when the chrome doors finally parts ways, or more meaningful conversations about passion and life, all of which are inspiring as they are illuminating. There existed an undeniable intimidation, of course, which is part and parcel of the pioneering and trailblazing force she has since become. Always way ahead of her time, Sari Yap saw potential when no one else did—whether it was the idea of the fashion magazine she had dreamt of, an offshoot of the companions that kept her steady and surviving in her solace in Navarra, Spain, the media conglomerate it has since grown into, or more importantly, in the people that crossed through the doors of what is now known as One Mega Group.
And one of those people was me.
Literature has taught us that every great story begins with a compelling beginning. Whether it is an imposing “In the beginning” or a more romantic “Once upon a time,” stories, however it plays out, all start from a seed of an idea. Hope, intent, and a course of action will take root, eventually setting the story in motion, exciting readers to no end. But when it comes down to it, we will always find ourselves looking back at page one, constantly flipping to the present, and maybe an eventual future, just to remember where all things began. This story with Sari Yap begins on our last written correspondence, in January 27, 2017, just as when we were putting together MEGA Stories: The Philippines’ Most Iconic, the toiled over tome that chronicled the history and encompassing legacy of the magazine.
By that time in 2017, six years since being discovered on the MEGA-produced reality TV show, MEGA Fashion Crew (wherein upon announcement and overcome with a swell of emotions, I had missed an opportunity to return the hug Ms. Sari was giving out on stage), I was already Associate Editor, in charge of the book’s timeline and tone of content, which of course also meant culling first-hand anecdotes from the people that started it all, Sari Yap included.
“Okay Angelo. I am very rusty. Have not written in years. Best efforts. Please edit na lang,” she replied upon my more pedantic request.
Ms. Sari’s flair for words and gift for storytelling is incomparable, no matter how much she has constantly downplayed it. Having pored over her Editor’s Notes from my stacked up pile of MEGA’s back issues even before joining the fold and listening to her speeches over the years, I was hit with an overwhelming sense of fear and trepidation when she, the very genesis of the title I work for, is giving me full responsibility of her piece, the full disclosure of the magazine’s humble beginnings—chicken farm, faux switchboards, and Burger Machine meetings and all.
Naturally, there was really nothing to edit. If at all, it was a sterling example of fine narrative work that could still run circles around us—as it dutifully did, and will continue to do so well beyond our entire collective prime.
That was one of the most important things to Sari Yap, that the stories weave itself into a legacy that will stand the test of time and circumstance. It was this precise premium for media excellence that has remained a bind that threads through the magazine we produce month after month. And just like her, it was and will still not be about us, but rather, with the woman to whom she alludes to in the coffee table book saying: “I’d say we owe our success and very existence to the MEGA woman. And so, this book, as everything else we’ve ever done, is for her.”
This is the standard we work very hard at attaining each and every month, with every visual and written exposition that is carefully and thoughtfully coddled within the ends of the magazine she only once saw as a potential void filler in a virtually non-existent fashion market back in the 90s. She may not be present during our monthly meetings or even perhaps see every work we put out, but it is her voice that we think of, and her seal of approval that we seek to be deemed worthy of being sent out to the printers and hopefully, into your hands. When in doubt, she would remind us every so often, go back to the story and the MEGA woman—and as we head to another meeting this afternoon, that is what we will keep in mind.
The history of MEGA, as written by Sari Yap in the book, was a little less than 1000 words, and yet she perfectly captured everything we needed to know—including the blood, sweat, tears, and even the moments of play and comedy of errors that abound in the early years—in a visceral, emotional, but also crisp telling that I turn to every time I’m in a bind.
Exacting this moment with her not only brings over a wash of memories that comes along with the ebb and flow of my tenure with the magazine, but it also serves as a turning point, wherein being anointed by her to look through and edit her work meant that I was capable, even if I didn’t necessarily think so, having been thrust into this responsibility a little too sudden, as if being fed into the lion’s den of the roman empire. “Noted, Ms. Sari. Will do so,” was all I could bring myself to reply, and as terse as it may sound, this has become my own moor which I anchor upon every time I look through the works that go through the magazine. If she thought I could do it then, I sure can do so now—and with great capacity.
There are still many things I would want to thresh over with Ms. Sari, picking her brain on everything from her keen sense of business, to her writing process, or how she can whip up a stirring sound bite at a mere seconds notice, but it unfortunate that the opportunity will no longer present itself. Today, I was told to craft the initial statement of the company announcing her death, an assignment I never imagined myself doing, as well as this tribute I was also told to write. “I don’t see anyone penning it but you,” MEGA’s current Editor-in-Chief, Peewee Reyes-Isidro told me over the phone this morning.
“Why me?” I asked myself. Then as if being jolted to sit straight in confidence, “Why not?” If Ms. Sari thought I could shape her story to be the best it possibly could then, I sure can do so now. And it is with earnest and utmost humility that it comes across, even without the privilege of years under her direct tutelage or being privy to a trove of her experiences. Many who worked with Sari Yap that while she is a master of words, the best undulations are left in the unsaid or at best, deciphered in-between the lines.
Sari Yap may seem to be this larger-than-life personality of power that looms over our office and of the greater industry we are all privileged to be part of today, but when the decorations are removed and the armor of being a founder and editor are set aside, she was a woman of character and most importantly, legacy, something she held to a high regard, especially in her later years. With an ability to separate herself from the work she does, as well as that of the superficial that strings through the world today, which was most apparent in the past few years, Sari Yap was incredibly self-aware, holding a firm grasp on her limits as a human being and the immense potential of her spirit to persist. “I think of when I started, and what I’ve become, and how I’ve evolved with the magazine. Some people might feel sad about it, when they realize that their time or their job is done, but with me, I don’t feel that way,” she says at the end of the Making MEGA In South Africa documentary. “It’s because I feel that I have truly done what I was supposed to do, which was to make sure MEGA, my legacy, outlives me. And I think that’s the hallmark of a good founder.”
A paragon of strength and wisdom, this piece is dedicated to the woman who even in her passing will continue to make dreams a reality, mine especially, even when I didn’t imagine it possible. I may no longer be able to return that hug you held out many years ago, it is my sworn promise to make sure your legacy lives on, in every word and story that bears the name forever parallel to your given name, MEGA. Even in that little way, I could live up to that potential you saw in me years ago, even when I couldn’t see it yet. And for that, I am eternally grateful—as is everyone of the lives you’ve touched.
This is not the end, Ms. Sari, but rather a continuation of the great work you’ve begun, something we intend to see through all in your name rightfully decked along the stream of stars in the universe.