Though Ms. Sari Yap, who sadly passed away on September 9, 2019, at 2:07 AM, will be mostly remembered as the woman who birthed the fashion magazine industry in the Philippines, I will always remember her as the fierce woman who had a passion for helping the youth and a visionary in the ever-evolving media industry.
The first time we crossed paths was for my interview in One Mega Group to become the Meg content editor. I knew she was the CEO of the company back then, but I had no idea just how strong and powerful her personality was. My legs were shaking and I was praying that she wouldn’t hate my outfit… you know, being a fashion icon and all. But the moment she spoke to me, she brought a sense of comfort in the room and I thought to myself, ‘maybe I’ll find a home in MEGA after all?‘ At first, I was a bit scared of being entrusted with something as big as Meg, but if Ms. Sari could trust me, then I knew I needed to trust myself too. She was the first person in MEGA who saw potential in me; a 21-year-old girl with a drive to prove herself and a passion to change the world. She said, “Iha, you’re putting too much on your plate. More than what you’re ready for. Let us hone you in MEGA and we’ll work on Meg together.”
Ms. Sari spoke with motherly tenderness, yet she sat there with an open mind to the thoughts of a Gen Z. We talked about how social media behavior was changing and how the lack of mental health awareness in the Philippines was something that mattered to my generation. Upon accepting the position, it felt like it was my duty now to make the youth feel that Meg was the platform who could understand them.
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In this world where words are our weapons of expression, there is no earthly written language that can accurately describe how we mourn the passing of our founder and greatest teacher, Ms. Sari Yap. She was a vibrant spirit and a guiding soul who has always encouraged the youth to speak up, to be bold, and to voice their opinions. Thank you for the joy and the inspiration, Ms Sari. Your legacy will live on. Already missed, but will never be forgotten.
Ms. Sari also had an understanding of the youth that not every adult possessed. She didn’t treat the younger generation like kids, she treated them like growing teens who had just as much to say as the next MEGA Woman. That’s why Meg Magazine worked so well; it went beyond the realm of fashion and beauty, it became a guiding beacon for the youth to hold on to. One of my first articles in Meg was about the late Helena Belmonte – the inspiration behind Meg Magazine. A year ago, I sat down with our founder and talked about her fondest memories with little Helena. She recalled Helena often going to the office to visit her mom, Lorraine Belmonte, who was then the creative director of MEGA. She used to have a lot of pets and whenever she visited the office, she carried so much youthful joy. When she reached her teen years, Helena became the muse of Meg. She was beautiful, smart, a flame that flickered out too soon.
The conversation with Ms. Sari went as far as talking about her own mental health; how for 10 years, she also struggled with depression and wanted to take her own life but she described herself as self-aware, coming to her senses even in her darkest hours to get herself back up. “There are more pressing matters of the soul. If I were to divide things, I would say that matters of the spirit and knowing who we are in this world is really for MEG. Understanding now, young people are really adults who can actually already bring up and resolve issues,” said Ms. Sari.
Her passion to help the youth was evident in the way she chose her Meg Cover Girls. She wanted rising celebrities who had good Filipino values. Looking back at the past issues, respected celebrities like Angel Locsin, Anne Curtis, and Heart Evangelista had their first covers in Meg and now they are this generation’s women to look up to. They are fearless, opinionated, and progressive–just as a Meg Girl should be.
But with progression also comes adaptation. With a brand like Meg, where the youth continuously changes, there were decisions needed to be made to keep moving forward. “Our titles must evolve,” Ms. Sari said upon turning the brand digital. “Meg has to evolve to answer the pressing concerns of the young people of today, which is not necessarily the same as 20 years ago. I think that now, we are in a better position to pursue what Meg has always tried to do, which is to help young people.” I kept those words in mind whenever I shared stories on Meg: ‘be a trailblazer, guide my generation to become better individuals, address the concerns of the youth.’
And so the last time I saw Ms. Sari, it was at our annual company meeting. I was on stage, accepting an employee of the year award and she held my hand, saying, “Elyse! Congratulations! Oh diba, nakaya natin?” If only then I knew those were the last moments I’d get to spend with her, then I would have thanked her a thousand times more for giving me this big break and being the first in MEGA to believe in me. Though I haven’t had the honor of working closely with Ms. Sari like my colleagues before me, the loss of our founder is still as deeply visceral, showing just how big of a legacy she leaves behind for the people at MEGA.
Ms. Sari Yap once believed that everybody is on a path to enlightenment and that people go through a journey that we shouldn’t question why. Success is not the end and everything in this world continues to evolve and grow. And so her legacy will continue to live on and she will be remembered as a fearless woman, unafraid to face the world with what she believed in.