One Year After: Of Lessons Learned And Memories Made, A Tribute To Sari Yap

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Looking back a year after her death, the MEGA editors turn to the lingering lessons and loving memories of Sari Yap in this tribute.

Related: In Between The Lines: What Sari Yap Has Taught Me About Writing, Being An Editor, And Confidence

YOU ARE WORTHY

As an artist, I always created using the eyes, but one of the many things Sari taught me is to design using the heart. The work that I do isn’t for myself, it is always for someone else to use, to be inspired by. So in this case, form always follows function. When I followed her advice, that’s when I truly felt MEGA worthy.— SUKI SALVADOR, VP for Content and Creatives


JUST BELIEVE

Sari Yap has taught me a lot of things that truly helped me in my career: how to create a magazine, the value of hard work, and how to be detail-oriented. But when people ask me what’s the most important lesson I learned from her I always go back to 2014 when I got the editorship. I spoke to her about the pressure of having to fill such big shoes, to which she quickly quipped that I shouldn’t be trying to fill hers, but to carve my own path and make my mark instead. She taught me the greatest lesson: to believe in myself. — PEEWEE REYES-ISIDRO, Editor-in-Chief


Sari Yap

CHASING TRAINS

Of the many things to learn from Sari Yap over her years as the paragon of publishing in the Philippines, nothing will come to close to her way with words. Whether it was written as editor’s notes over the course of her tenure as Editor-in-Chief for MEGA, heard as speeches at a function or conversations in the hallways of the office, they always left an indelible imprint on whoever was privileged to have read or listened to what she had to say. One of the more memorable instances of her gift was at the company Christmas party the year before I was finally convinced to formally join MEGA. “Imagine there is a moving train and it is set to run its course at top speed,” she said in her speech as I sat transfixed on every syllable she uttered. “Do you get on or will you get off?”

Always one to leave morsels of wisdom at every interface, this was more introspective and I was completely taken by the metaphor—something that has managed to take root in my mind ever since then. There have been many more exchanges since then, direct and otherwise, but this has always served as a compass in everything that I have done, am doing, and will continue to do so. It was never about the easy way out or the bare minimum for Sari Yap, but rather going above and beyond to push the boundaries and the narrative forward for the readers, always. A stickler for precision and passion, this exemplary ethic was what set her apart and inspired many—and she always managed to make this known in her work, no matter the rate of the distance covered.

Operating at warp speed and navigating the blur of the world, working at MEGA was the fast train she was talking about. Make no mistake about, this doesn’t mean that there is appreciation for all the little things along the way, because there is a whole lot of that. But when others would rather take it easy or stall their potential, Sari Yap made sure to challenge you to get on that train and get you going on your journey, wherever that will take you. Guess what, ever since then, I jumped on that speeding train and have never looked back since. —ANGELO RAMIREZ DE CARTAGENA, Digital Content Editor


ELEVATOR DIARY

“I remember you.”

Those were the first words Sari Yap said when I entered her room. I’d applied in MEGA years before, back when the internet was the Internet and no one was ashamed of Yahoo! Mail. I was so nervous for my meeting with Sari that I’d asked sartorial advice from my mom, my titas, all my friends and an ex-boyfriend. The interview went well despite my clammy hands and vigorous, unnecessary nodding. Perhaps Sari saw something beyond the jittery figure because she sent me home with a job offer that day, one that I didn’t accept because I was a terrible twentysomething, full of misplaced self-confidence and self-loathing. I had many friends in the industry, which was then full of Gucci Gangs and a rave mentality—work hard, but party harder.

My gut told me I would lose myself in a storm of entitlement and precociousness. The second time I entered Sari’s office, several years later, I was more sure about myself, my ambitions and even my fashion choices. I felt ready to join her vision. “I remember you,” she said as soon as I sat down. How can a woman of her stature, who meets so many people, handles so many things, remember a person who didn’t even work for her? But she did. This time only my voice faltered when she beamed at me. Oh, to get that seal of approval from the woman herself. Everyone who’s ever been at the receiving end of it understands the feeling. “You won’t get lost—I’m sure,” she said as I left her office. I would take some wrong turns, but she was right: I would always get back.—TRINA EPILEPSIA, Managing Editor


Sari Yap

STRONGER NOW

Getting called to meet Miss Sari in her office is the same as going to the principal’s office—you know you probably did something major, otherwise she wouldn’t have given you her time of day. During my earlier years in MEGA, I’ve had my fair share of those major things. Whether it was for a cover shoot not worthy of seeing the light of day or layout designs that did not serve purpose in communicating its intentions, Miss Sari was never one to hold back. The best thing about her is that she will always say it as it is—no sugar coating, no fluff—just the plain hard truth. It’s only a matter of learning not to take things personally and discovering a silver lining in everything she will tell you. We’re not kidding when we say only the strong survive with Miss Sari Yap. The lessons she imparted are worth holding onto, not just for your career but for all aspects of your life.—JANN PASCUA, Associate Creative Director


MAKE A MOVE

Before officially joining the company, I was an intern with high hopes of one day making it. It was the peak of high-voltage glossy pages that time. One day, I found myself sharing the elevator with Sari Yap herself. We were the only two people inside. She didn’t utter a word, but I felt her eyes go through every little detail of my hand-me-down outfit, making me hold my breath. This was the woman in the Making MEGA films, and who helmed the best fashion magazine in the Philippines. She walked with power, commanding attention in any room and basked with a knowledge of fashion and business. It was a privilege for a hopeful like me, seeing her in her prime.

Five years passed. I had just returned to the Philippines after studying briefly at Central Saint Martins. One would think having a prestigious fashion school in your bag would land you a high position anywhere, but life isn’t a movie. I was feeling lost with no purpose and I had to work my way up. Armed with everything I knew and all that I’ve been through, I applied for a graphic designer position at MEGA. I didn’t get the job—because they had another one in mind for me: Fashion Associate. Next thing I knew, I was set for a final interview with Sari Yap. The first thing she asked me was, “What is your intention in MEGA?” Then, “Are you here for the fame and the perks? If yes, this job is not for you. You must know how to make a name for yourself the right way.” I felt a tingle down my spine as she questioned me, but I did not bluff. She reminded me of the reason why I chose this industry and I answered her truthfully. “You may start on Monday,” she said. I was thrilled. “You have a long way to go, but I like your spirit.” Joining MEGA felt like stepping on the set of The Devil Wears Prada, complete with all the drama and glamour (which comprises just 15% of the job, but 100% looking the part). Here I am, one year later, devoting myself to finding new designers and artists to the game, doing my very best to live up to the legacy she left behind.—LYN ALUMNO, Fashion Associate


Sari Yap

SHE’S A WOMAN

When it comes to hard work, I look up to four women. My two grandmothers, my mother and Miss Sari. From them, I learned that hard work only makes sense if it has a purpose greater than yourself.A MEGA woman like Miss Sari is very rare. She knew what she wanted and she did it, creating an empire that I now call my second home. My first encounter with her was in my last interview for the Fashion Assistant position in the magazine. “Most of the Ateneo fresh grads who enter MEGA don’t even want to steam clothes,” she said. The words made me laugh in my head, but at the same time, they challenged me to prove her wrong. I understood where she was coming from because she built the brand from the ground up. She didn’t only require hard work, she required hard work that is timely, relevant, and most importantly, resonates with the MEGA woman of today.

The next few encounters with her would be in the hallways of the office where we would only exchange greetings and those rare, intimidating moments when we would ride the same elevator going up to the office. She would always break the ice with things like, “I love your top where did you get it from?” I would always reply, “Nako Miss Sari, sa Zara lang ‘yan” in a friendly tone even if in my brain was a frantic mess. We would have very light conversations, nothing too serious. But at some point in my career, maybe three years ago, I found out that she told my bosses to take care of me because I was very talented. In all those years I feared her, she was always there watching over me and cheering me on. —JEB FRONDA, Fashion Editor


THE WINNING SMILE

While I may not have any significant interaction with Miss Sari compared to my other colleagues, I have always admired her from afar. Ever since I was only in college, whenever I’d see the MEGA covers dominating my social media timelines, I unfailingly told myself this: “One day, I’ll work in a fashion magazine—I promise.” Fast forward to 2018, just two days after my graduation, I had my interview in the Philippines’ best fashion magazine, which eventually led to a job offer. Working in your dream job is a blessing in this day and age. Not a lot of people are given this great opportunity, especially in a cut-throat industry.

Now, every time I’d see Miss Sari in the office, she would always genuinely smile at me—a scenario I never expected, because I always thought that all EICs, especially for a woman who helped build this industry to what it is today, would be a Miranda Priestly. But I was wrong. She was a woman who always saw the good in each person—from their potential, talent, and passion. In 2019, I hosted the town hall meeting, the last company-wide meeting Miss Sari attended. As I was on stage, I kept looking at her, and she’d just listen and once again, smile. Then a few months after we heard the devastating news that our founder passed away, our current EIC talked to me about my performance at work. And I was surprised when I heard the feedback from the OG MEGA Woman herself, acknowledging and commending all the contributions I made for MEGA Digital. So, perhaps every time we exchange smiles, it always meant as a victory, signaling that we are slowly and surely going strong in penetrating the digital world and making her vision come to life. — DANIEL REYES, Digital Fashion and Features Writer


CEASELESS ADMIRATION

To one of the ladies I look up to even before I entered MEGA, it is with sadness that I wasn’t given the chance to personally introduce myself to Ms. Sari Yap. However, earning a rightful place in this industry, which Sari Yap excellently built and shaped feels like acquiring skills firsthand from the definitive MEGA woman herself. Spurring a sense of inspiration and motivation, her iconic video of MEGA’s humble beginnings would keep reminding me of why I’m here in the first place. —ALINEA HERNANDEZ, Digital Beauty and Features Writer


TAKE A CHANCE ON ME

The first time I met Miss Sari, I was a 21-year-old girl with a drive to prove herself to the CEO. She was my first interview, so you could only imagine how nervous I felt being in her presence, but she spoke to me with such a motherly tenderness that it instantly made me feel like I belonged in the company. We both took a leap of faith that day when she entrusted me with MEG. I had heavy shoes to fill, but she believed in me, so why shouldn’t I? Fast-forward to a year later, I was standing on stage accepting an award for my dedication. I shook her hand and she beamed at me and said,

“Elyse, congratulations! Oh diba, nakaya natin?

If only I knew then that those were the last moments I would get to spend with Miss Sari, I would have thanked her a thousand times more for taking a chance on me. She once told me that our titles must evolve, and I didn’t take it literally until I was moved to a new brand. Among the news of her passing, I was told that I would be part of the MEGA team. Mixed emotions led me to tears, but sir Suki told me that he was keeping one of his promises to Miss Sari to take care of me. I know now that wherever my career takes me, Miss Sari will be up there rooting for me. And every day, I will strive to keep the fierce visionary alive as her legacy lives on through us. – ELYSE ILAGAN, Digital Features Editor