On Being a Student of Life

Photo by Shutterpanda for my cover story inside ABC Magazine (Life Lessons)

Hey, hey! Today, I’m sharing some tidbits from ABC Mag’s launch and my two cents with regards to being a Student of Life—and the reason why we chose this theme for our first issue. 🙂

Above: My first ever “readsearch” attempt. Also known as, I don’t really know what I was doing so I whipped out my notebooks and started brainstorming past 1AM. 

When this project first came into the picture, I’ve never felt more scared in my entire life (true story). Maybe because I loved magazines so much that it terrified me to be given such a huge responsibility to make my own. I kept it under the #abcreadsearch hashtag because “readsearch” was my way of learning the ropes of this project (through reading and researching), in the hopes of being able to effectively use this platform to further contribute to the creative community here in the Philippines.

Related post: #ABCReadSearch is not a book

So grateful I got to work with my editorial team (The A Team), as they have so much experience in the magazine industry. We instantly connected and had the same vision for this publication—it gave me more reason to do my best and give it my all as we slowly churned out content, reached out to contributors, and eventually make this magazine come to life, and become what you have in your hands now. 🙂

What is ABC Magazine?

ABC Magazine is a magazine for artists, crafters, and makers. There’s nothing like it—the first of its kind here in the Philippines, that talks about art, creativity, passion, dreams, travels, and things that pique my personal interests. I’ve always been keen on finding kindred souls, and I believe this publication does just that. I also believe in giving opportunities for others to showcase this work, which is why I personally handpicked each and every person that went into the pages of ABC Magazine.

Also: You might think ABC is Abbey Sy but it’s not (for this particular project)…ABC means to begin (think The ABCs of Hand Lettering and The ABCs of Journaling, lol) or ABC can also mean Always Be Creating, a mantra I’ve been putting out in the open for everyone to remember as they go along with their respective creative journeys. 😃

The magazine is divided into 4 parts: Artspiration (roundups, recommendations, and inspiration), Aesthetic (creativity and design-centric content, travels, productivity hacks and tips), Advice (wise words from fellow artists, real talk, creative issues), and Activity (DIY projects).

“Student of Life”

Art by Gian Nicdao for ABC Magazine

While I was working on the magazine, I had to admit that I was super pressured to make it the “best”. The whole concept of Student of Life didn’t really occur to me until we started to plot out the content and tie it together with my experiences as a self-taught artist. Nowadays, there are just so many ways to learn new things, to become a student again. That’s something most people forget as they grow up. This issue tackles the beauty of beginnings, finding inspiration in the little things, and having that wide-eyed wonder of learning something for the first time.

A Student of Life is…

A Student of Life is Ambitious. But not in the ways we would initially expect. Being ambitious enables you to dream big — and do great things. We all have our own definitions of success, and it’s up to us to acquire the right level of being “ambitious” in order to get to where we want to be. Society right now has shaped us to believe certain factors that contribute to success – don’t listen to them. Listen to what your heart says, what you really want to aim for. Remember that success is not a one-way street, and it varies for everyone, for all walks of life.

When I was young, I never thought that I’d end up here. When I first started, it wasn’t my initial goal to make a magazine. It was one of the things I wanted to do, but it wasn’t what I initially set out to do. I tackled each goal one by one, making my ambition grow, to be the best version of me and to share my art with others.

(Tbh, it still feels surreal that I got to write books and have my work published)

A student of life is Brave. Brave enough to take on obstacles that bring out the best in him or her.

My favorite Disney princess is Mulan – partly because I’m Chinese (lol) but mostly because of her bravery and ability to defy what people thought she couldn’t do (as a girl). I grew up having to prove people that they were wrong about me, and by being brave enough to pursue what I wanted, all they could do was keep quiet and watch from the sidelines.

“You’re so brave, grabe!” my friends would tell me when they found out I quit my job at twenty two, in order to “make art” and “pursue a creative career”. Three years in and I still feel surreal to be able to claim that this is actually my job already. There were definitely a lot of growing pains, transitions, and adjustments that I had to go through. I never saw myself as “brave”, really. I just knew what I wanted and went for it, without looking back.

It’s a vast world out there and to be honest, so many things in life are so uncertain. But you have to be brave enough to face them in order to see what’s on the other side. “Consider pursuing the things that frighten you”, they said. Because after all, these might lead you to realize what you are truly capable of.


Lastly, and most importantly, a student of life is Curious. Constantly asking questions, doing “readsearch”, and always eager to learn something new.

In this “School of Life”, we make our own curriculum. There’s no grading system, no set format on how to learn. As we grow older, we become less and less interested of new things and adapting to the times because we say “graduate na ako eh”. But that’s not the point, really. It’s important to always find curiosity in your own life, in what you do. Even on my part, I know that there are still so much things to learn, and so much that I still want to create.

On some days I like taking “field trips” to the grocery, to the bookstore. It may seem like petty things, but they help me discover the neighborhood I live in, the places that inspire me, the things that fuel my creativity. And as an artist, I feel that in order to create more, I have to be more curious to transform what I see into something that I can share with others.

Here are some of my recommendations in books, magazines, websites, films, music, and podcasts:

I spend a huge amount of my week consuming articles and reading things, mostly because I’m one who likes to snoop in on other people’s minds (lololol) and one who likes to find kindred souls on the interwebz. Kidding aside though, this is easily my favorite way to gain new knowledge. 

My preferences for films are always intertwined with music: I like watching biopics (Nowhere Boy is about John Lennon’s childhood! I also like The Social Network and Steve Jobs. Aaron Sorkin is a terrific screenwriter, tbh. Also, Saving Mr. Banks!) and coming-of-age films (Moonrise Kingdom, nuff said! Also, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Juno, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Paper Towns, Submarine), also films that are musically-inclined (Sing Street, Begin Again…you know the drill).

I like a lot of music genres. Even HSM is part of my go-to songs, lol. You can check out my picks on Spotify: Abbey Sy.

Always had an affiliation for stunning visual frames, so Wes Anderson is one of my favorite directors. For obvious reasons. Ask me what my color scheme in life is and I’ll answer Moonrise Kingdom, any day.

Above: a few of my favorites from podcasts to talks. Forgot to add, do watch Abstract: it’s a series on Netflix about design. IT’S AMAZING. Thank me later. 😛

Being curious is not just about books or reading, or “readsearch”ing. It’s about seeing the world around you, going places, and discovering new things in the process. The world is your oyster, and it’s up to you to figure out what you want to know about it. Never stop exploring.

And, leaving you with a quote from Seneca, a Stoic philosopher:

Special thanks to my manager, Tricie Amador, for being my forever editor with writing personal essays and my talks. 😃 (Find her articles inside ABC Mag’s first issue!)

PS: You can catch the live version of this talk on FB below:

Also, sharing some snippets from the launch last Saturday, June 17, at Art Bar! Definitely one of my favorites as it was very intimate. 🙂

Above: Students of Life 🙂 Congrats to the winners of #ABCMagPromo and thanks for attending the talk!

Enjoyed seeing familiar faces and meeting new readers during the signing portion. 🙂

One of the reasons why this launch was so memorable was having some of my closest friends over to celebrate with me. My thesismates from college (aka favorite people) came, as well as my previous interns from my first batch of Team ABC! 😀 Thanks also to my family for always being present. 🙂

A huge thanks to the Summit Books and Events team for helping mount this event…and making this whole thing possible. Huhu!

Thanks also to my current batch of assistants for all the help and making sure the program went smoothly.

ABC Magazine is now available at major bookstores and newsstands nationwide for P250. Published by Summit Books. Follow us on Instagram for updates: instagram.com/abc.mag

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