Sari Yap will be mostly remembered as the woman who pioneered the fashion magazine industry in the Philippines, but 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. Today, on her birthday, we celebrate the indelible mark she leaves for the next generation of creators.
The first time we crossed paths was for my interview in One Mega Group. I knew she was the CEO of the company back then, but I had no idea of her reputation as a strong and powerful woman. 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 this company after all?”
Sari Yap was the first person in my career who saw potential in me; a 21-year-old girl with a drive to prove herself. She spoke with motherly tenderness, yet she sat across me with an open mind to the thoughts of a naive 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 to make the youth feel that the brand I was in was the platform that could understand my generation.
Ms. Sari also had an understanding of the youth that not every adult possessed. She didn’t treat the younger audience like kids, she treated them like growing teens who had just as much to say as the next cover girl.
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. She was 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 us. Understanding now, young people are really adults who can actually already bring up and resolve issues,” said Ms. Sari.
“Our titles must evolve,” Ms. Sari said upon turning our brands digital. “It 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 we have always tried to do, which is to help young people.”
I kept those words in mind whenever I wrote my stories: “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 ‘di ba, nakaya natin?”
If only then I knew that 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 the company 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.
And that still rings true to this day. Without Ms. Sari, NYLON Manila wouldn’t be here today. As the first international franchise of One Mega Group, Ms. Sari believed that this was the brand that will speak and resonate with the young people.
Ms. Sari Yap once thought 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.