Take a journey through the history of MEGA and how it evolved to what it is today: an empowered and purposeful brand building a legacy of style
A chicken farm. This was where the first-ever issue of MEGA was created. While other top fashion magazines around the world were born in offices or a lavish apartment, the team of MEGA started work in an empty lot with no air conditioning. They did have a rotary phone and often, a chicken would keep the members company outside the windows. It’s amazing to think that a brand–a highly stylish and influential one–that currently attracts more than millions of readers, had such humble beginnings.
MEGA’s history now extends over 30 years.
MEGA started with the visionary and Founding Editor Sari Yap who was inspired by Telva, a Spanish monthly women’s magazine, while she was still a student taking her master’s degree in Media Management at the University of Navarra. From there on, she dedicated her life to bringing the Philippines its first-ever glossy fashion magazine.
This was in 1992 when newspapers were still black and white and it was the height of the power crisis, leaving the country with 8 to 12-hour rotational brownouts. Yap would even have to transfer the whole production process to Hong Kong due to the power outages, and air freight a ton of printed matter back to Manila. Television networks after being liberalized were also still growing, and women’s rights in political and civic life had just been enacted.
Yet, the publication’s maiden issue boldly entered society with an oversized masthead and Filipina model Gerone Oloricisimo wearing a striking red suit jacket on the cover. It was defiant, powerful and most importantly, it was the first time Filipinas were in the forefront of mass media.
THE GOLDEN EVOLUTION
The local fashion industry has never been the same since the arrival of MEGA. In the following years and early 2000s, the team moved to the Ortigas Business District where they earned its label as the Philippines’ Best Fashion Magazine.
During this time it was the editors who controlled the scene. As portrayed in Devil Wears Prada, people were lining up in their best outfits for a job in the publishing industry, including Editor-in-Chief Peewee Reyes-Isidro. “It was a melting pot of creatives and talents. It was the platform of choice and I wanted to be part of this universe because of the unique way one can tell a story either visually or through text.”
Being asked to be a cover star was also a prestigious title as it chronicled the evolution of the MEGA woman. First, it was showbiz royalty Sharon Cuneta, Ruffa Gutierrez, and Judy Ann Santos in close-up portraits and minimalist styling.
Next was the arrival of the “It Girl” and Filipina supermodels such as trendsetters KC Concepcion, Bianca Gonzalez, Georgina Wilson, and fashion muses Apples Aberin, Tweetie De Leon, and Rissa Mananquil who fittingly modeled the brand’s transition to all things pop culture and high fashion.
By 2011, MEGA expanded its reach in different media platforms which caused famous designers, photographers, and makeup artists be linked to the history of the magazine. There was the MEGA Young Designer’s Competition that kickstarted Furne One and Rajo Laurel’s careers, and the reality television show MEGA Fashion Crew that discovered the likes of photographer Dookie Ducay and makeup artist Jelly Eugenio. Alongside the MEGA Pinoy Pride Ball and MEGA New PH, events that gathered the community into one room to celebrate local talent.
The annual anniversary issue and the launch of #MakingMEGA, a behind-the-scenes film on the international cover, also set new records by going global. Superstars like Anne Curtis were captured along the colorful streets of Brazil while Bianca Gonzalez conquered Russia in full leather. “The MEGA team and collaborators are a formidable set. It is a combination of young and seasoned people who came together to create a singular vision. They are some of the kindest and most hardworking people I know who will do everything for the perfect shot while jet lagging,” One Mega President Suki Salvador proudly recalls how the iconic covers were made.
However like many media businesses, MEGA also went through a moment of reckoning. One was the Asian Financial Crisis of 2017, and the other was in 2019 when its original leader, Sari Yap passed away. Other competitors then had shuttered their print issues and the company’s own 10 titles dwindled down.
Yet, throughout MEGA’s history, she was holding on for one main reason: “We have featured, discovered, and honed Filipino talents on- and off-cam for the Filipino audience. Regardless of the platform we exist, MEGA will always stay true to its mission,” says Archie Carrasco, Chairman & CEO of One Mega Group Inc.
30 AND THRIVING
The pandemic provided a moment for the magazine to reflect on its history and what the publication means. And as she turns the big 3-0 with a host of editorial collaborations and new digital-only publications such as MEGA Active and MEGA+, MEGA has found its purpose and she’s being more vocal about it than ever before.
Readers and consumers now demand more, and the brand is stepping up to make their values known, balance business and integrity, and prepared to publicly take account for its actions Carrasco explains, “MEGA being available in different media platforms and social channels is just the beginning of the MEGA ecosystem. It is set to diversify to other industries in the next few years to expand its reach.”
“A visual and literary record of the rise and growth of women in society, MEGA now is a multi-hyphenate, authentic woman who fearlessly tackles social issues as much as she sets the trends,” says Reyes-Isidro “MEGA has always been quick to recognize cultural shifts in the landscape and so I would have to say it’s always about who is relevant and who has something new to say. It’s always a reflection of the times and is all about representation and diversity.”
“As platforms change and as women evolve, the mission of MEGA remains the same in the next 30 years and that is to be the standard for Filipino media excellence. We will continue to positively impact the lives of many,” Salvador claims. And with evocative images, a strong sense of its mission, and an authority that extends into the digital sphere, it’s certain that MEGA is and will continue to thrive beyond thirty.
Celebrate the history of MEGA as it turns 30 in the upcoming February anniversary issue. Stay tuned!