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

#ABCReadSearch is not a book

I can’t remember exactly the very first time I took an interest in reading magazines. But as an introverted “tween” (at eleven years old), I always made my way inside bookstores and getting a copy of W.i.t.c.h. magazine. W.i.t.c.h. was my escape from school— I found myself inside the world of Kandrakar, relating to my favorite characters (Will for her leadership attitude and Cornelia for her love for earthly things).

Years later, I became one of those girls who spent their free time reading about YA novels, crushing on fictional guys, wishing that one day, I could write my own novel and people would fall in love with stories I wrote. At the same time, I was a growing teenager—I now picked up copies of Candy monthly at the bookstore or browse my cousin’s collection of back issues. I’d illustrate the models, create my own outfits, and wish that one day, I’d be able to contribute inside the pages of the magazine. (Plot twist: I got featured, I got to contribute, and I got to redesign their logo!)


From what I’ve shared, you could say that I’ve always dreamed of working for a magazine or a publishing house. I just knew it wasn’t an option when I took up an Advertising Management course in college, or decided to pursue a freelance career (well,I was wrong!). I remember fangirling the first time I saw Mimi, EIC of W.i.t.c.h. and also a Managing Editor of Candy then. I remember internally freaking out (in a good way!) the first time I met my publisher, Koko, when I first got my book deal two years ago. I also remember getting goosebumps the first time I stepped into the Summit Media office, telling myself, “OMG you’re actually here—and soon you’ll be an author.”

Two years and two best-selling books later (plot twist: I didn’t write fiction—in fact, I wrote non-fiction!), it still feels surreal to call myself an “author”. I knew I loved words the moment I knew how to read; I knew I loved them the very moment I started aceing my formal theme papers in high school. Little did I know this fascination for making art and weaving words together would lead me to the position I am in right now, as I slowly reveal the #abcreadsearch hashtag that everyone might be wondering about for the past months…

I’m now the Founder and Creative Director of ABC Magazine. 🙂

(And nope, it’s not a book, tv show, vlog, or art cafe. Wahaha. Gotcha!)

I’m out of words as I try to remember how I took in this role. Let’s just say I wanted to hide in a corner and tell myself “YOU CAN’T DO IT” over and over…because I felt that I didn’t know the ropes of how magazine publishing worked. I was wrong. The more I worked on it, the more I realized that all the things I needed to know were already inside of me. I just didn’t know how to use them (at first).

Well, of course, there was the occasional “readsearch”—spending nights reading and dissecting magazines and books like my life depended on it (correction, work. Haha!).

Related Post: Inside my #ABCReadSearch Library

And of course, the fact that I got to work with a powerhouse of a team (we call ourselves “A Team” because…no, not because Ed Sheeran, lol. The initial mag name was supposed to be A Magazine!) really made all of the difference. 🙂

Every time I look back at the working process of this magazine, I laugh a little. It’s not every day you get to do flatlay on a cover, no less (I’ve always been terrified of doing covers since my first book hahaha true fact), and getting to draw and paint and write every day still feels like a surreal part of my job.

The best part, though, was seeing all the submissions from our contributors—while I supervised the creative vision for this magazine (and wrote some articles: mostly life hacks and productivity-related things, as per usual, lol), it was the contributing artists, photographers and writers that really shaped this magazine’s first issue. 🙂

A peek at our cover shoot BTS! (Thanks Macy for being our favorite hand model, lol)

The final thing! EEP. I was totally smiling from ear to ear when I got my copy because look. at. that. teal. IT’S THE PERFECT SHADE.


The first issue is about being a Student of Life: learning outside the four walls of school, finding inspiration in the little things, and being open to discovering more about yourself. As for me, making this magazine in itself was definitely a learning experience that’s one for the books (pun intended, haha!).

In this issue, we’ve rounded up an amazing roster of artists and designers to share their insights, showcase their work, as well as stories on starting a creative journey, finding your own voice, and being the best version of yourself. We’ve also included (of course!) snippets from travels and adventures of fellow creatives, places to get your art fix and lots of DIY projects for you to try.

Also, a side note: I’ve always been an advocate to showcase people’s works as I used to be one of those aspiring artists who only dreamt to have their work published (y’all I know that kilig feeling!). So hopefully, this will serve as a platform for me to be able to feature up and coming talents and of course, the people I fangirl over. Haha!


Please brace yourselves for a really long thank you portion. I always, always never leave this out because I won’t be able to have done this without the help of these people:

The Summit Books team, for giving me this opportunity, and believing in my vision;

To my editorial team: The A Team! Thanks for sticking it out with me: from the deadlines, Toby’s coffee runs, proofs checking, shoots, brainstorm sessions, random brain farts, and for ALL the help. ALL of it. This magazine would not have been possible without each of your inputs.

Editor-in-Chief: Mimi Tiu (Can you feel my fangirling as I type this?!?!)

Art Director: Katsu Modomo

Managing Editor: Macy Alcaraz

Editorial Assistant: Jean Kelly

Some of the key people who inspired and motivated me to work on this magazine…

Koko, my publisher: who called to tell me last year that I’m tasked to create a magazine of my own. (I cried after.) Thanks for never giving up on me. And for trusting that I can deliver to the standards set, even if I was terrified at the beginning;

Tricie, my manager: my sounding board since day one, my favorite person to bug, to the second voice that always tells me that I can do it, and that it will all go well;

Kaila, one of my big sisters (LDF from Japan lololol): my constant source of positive energy, my sister from another mother, for ALWAYS supporting me from my h.e.a.r.t. days up to Abbey Sy and up to all the babies (thanks for being a ninang to the ABC Fam!);

My best friends and family who have kept me sane throughout the creation of this project, to the people I’ve spent nights talking to as I simultaneously beat my deadlines (haha, you know who you are);

To the people who believed in me, to the people who didn’t, and to that magazine who rejected my artworks, thanks, because it gave me more reason to do my best as I made my own. 🙂 To every person I’ve worked with and met over the past couple of years, thank you.

And of course, to YOU. For sticking it out with me. For being a part of the ABC family. Thank you for the support, for constantly giving me motivation to create and curate and connect.

ABC Magazine will be available starting next week at major bookstores and newsstands for P250. Each issue comes with free inserts: wall art, postcards, and stickers. Published by Summit Books.

I’m so excited to share this new venture with you all. Always be creating, and never stop learning!


PS: See you this June 17 for my magazine launch + signing! Details on the next post coming tomorrow. 🙂

Photos of me by Shutter Panda

ABC Magazine photos by Aira Dizon