“You work with your mind that cannot be subjugated to something less than the truth. To recognize the truth is the aim of all intelligent activity.” Sari Yap, 2002.
The media landscape in the Philippines 28 years ago was very different. The digital world was a mere seed in the brains of a few forward-thinking people, and at the time, the idea of a glossy magazine devoted to fashion and lifestyle was nearly unheard of.
Not so in the mind of Sari Yap, who today passed, leaving behind One Mega Group, a company that for the last three decades under her guidance has influenced the world of publishing in the Philippines.
Sari took her masters in the University of Navarre, where her thesis on entrepreneurship combined with her fondness for the Spanish fashion magazine Telva led her to explore the idea of forming a glossy, fashion-based publication in the Philippines. In 1991, she created MEGA Magazine. The rest, they say, is history.
For the ensuing decades that followed, MEGA became and remains the vanguard, the reference point in local Filipino fashion, its influence reaching everywhere throughout the country. Today, it is the only local Filipino fashion magazine in existence, alive and well throughout all the earthquakes felt in the industry, especially during the last few years.
RELATED READS: The Wonderful Legacy and Meaningful Life of Sari Yap
A whole generation of people grew up with MEGA. There were readers who simply appreciated the content, and there were those who dreamt more and wanted to be part of it. From creative-minded people who dreamed of seeing their designs featured on its pages and who eventually accomplished that, to those in love with the written word and wanted to be part of the industry behemoth she put up, and to those who wanted to be in the thick of the booming fashion industry.
Bianca Salonga, who started working at MEGA Magazine in 2004 before leaving in 2009, shares that the reason she applied was to be entrenched in fashion. “At the time, there was no other place for it than MEGA,” she says. In the beginning, she thought Sari’s only concerns were the big picture stuff: cover stories, major news that needed to break, only to discover that she read every single page. “Although she wasn’t my direct boss at that time, I remember her calling me out on an article that she felt needed improving. She sat me down and expounded on how I could make my copy more compelling and interesting,” she says. “I was intimidated and at the same time motivated to get out of my teeny-bopper mind and step up to meet the standards of a MEGA Editor. It was while working there that I learned never to attach my name to anything that was mediocre—not even a cutline.”
During the first few years of One MEGA Group, Sari noted that the magazine most getting advertising notice was Lifestyle Asia, founded in 1987 by Exequiel B. Garcia. Her solution, inevitably, was to buy the brand and bring it into the fold. Helming Lifestyle Asia as its Editor-in-Chief was a completely new ball game, and Sari took to it like a duck to water. “Back then, people judged you if you were new rich, if you became wealthy in ways maybe certain people didn’t approve of,” says Creative Director Suki Salvador. “But Sari disagreed with that. She believed you didn’t need to come from heritage, you could create your own heritage.”
Over the years, the company continued to grow, acquiring and creating more titles, finding new ways to be at the forefront of any conversation, be it in the realm of fashion, lifestyle, design, and food. Names were made, lessons were learned and new realms of possibility were conquered, no matter their seemingly unreachable heights. For Sari, nothing was too lofty to conquer.
Through it all, she never lost her signature touch of verve and humor. “She had a way with words that got a message across with crystal clear clarity. At the same time, she knew how to connect on a level that was sincere and personal,” says Bianca, whose second stint at the company was managing editor of Lifestyle Asia from 2015 to 2017. “After one meeting, I thought my neck would be on the chopping block only to be surprised by a very random gift she gave me several days following. It was a pair of pleated palazzo pants that I have kept in my wardrobe for years. She was funny that way—a brutal critic one day, an open soul that you could approach with ease the next.”
The person she worked closest with at Lifestyle Asia was former Editor-in-Chief Anna Sobrepeña, whose tenure at the magazine lasted 12 years. “When I joined OMG, she said that she wanted to keep work matters out of our relationship to protect our friendship and we did manage that most of the time,” shares Anna. Sari was godmother to Anna’s son’s wedding last year, and they both enjoyed traveling together. “When we last traveled, her illness did not stop her from asking me to join her on a month-long trip around Europe. We had traveled together before on different occasions but not this long where we would be together every day, sharing the same suite. It was a good time and she did some things for the first time like riding a Segway,” she says. One legendary anecdote had to do with wading in knee-high water in Venice after one particularly torrential downpour.
I, too, have a personal story about the woman we all fondly called SVY. She did not like me the first time she met me, because I think she felt I could do better. Therefore, I did. The second time I spent in close contact with her was when we shot her beautiful home this year, which, like her company were the rewards of all her hard work. I spent the entire afternoon there, at one point falling asleep on the couch located on her balcony, overlooking the city. She laughed, and woke me up and complimented my jacket, which I ended up wearing for days on end. I never wanted to take it off.
“I am in Portugal now, which both of us visited,” says Anna. “She taught me the only Portuguese line I know, and it captures the mood of the moment: Tenho saudade de ti. I miss you.”