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Plastic surgery has cataloged its limitations and advantages. It has also changed the lifestyle of thousands for better…or for worse. This is a typical Filipina’s life-changing, before-and-after story.

Gloribel Geronaga wanted some change in her life—to make herself better, inside and out. Perhaps this was a life quest, but for this young adult, her desire was typical. She wanted to be more well-rounded and yet enjoy a slimmer figure. Today she says, “I see myself as a confident woman. My self-esteem is stronger. It is easier for me now to talk and mingle with the crowd. I guess I am more independent now.”

Although there are no quantitative local studies to document changing Philippine market attitudes, the openness toward aesthetic procedures is not milling in the air, but can be seen in the minute—and for some, the obvious—“transitions” of the bodies and hearts of its specimens, including this young woman’s.

But clock a few minutes in the din of the shopping mall or on the trading floor for the purpose of people-watching, and you can count at least three visibly obvious nose jobs within a minute—and shrug. It’s becoming as common as the offhanded talk in the office pantry where Botox is just another topic percolating like the weather.

Obviously, the process has been going on for a long time. This attitude change has become more prevalent among a steadily growing urban population that sees such procedures as among many other lifestyle options. And in Manila, where cash is still king, electronic charges, lay-away plans and other payment options spur a niche market with the thundering mass marketing of today.

It’s also personal

THE trade is also deeply personal. In Gloribel’s case, the desire for change came true when her employer, Aesthetic Science (AS, www.aestheticscienceclinic.com), gave her the opportunity to experience its services for herself. AS is fast-becoming an established clinic in the field of dermatology and plastic surgery. It addresses the desire for a deep-seated source of beauty by mixing its dermatological and plastic surgical services with holistic programs in partnership with wellness practitioners, including a yoga studio.

After undergoing her series of procedures, Geronaga says: “Physically, I know I look better now. My nose is more prominent and my face is less rounded. My skin is whiter, too. I have lost weight and my body feels sexy.” These are some of the positive changes that this 24-year-old has experienced.

The improvement in her physical appearance has revived a sort of pride in herself. “My outward appearance inspires me. I realized that this was a great help in loving myself. When you love yourself, you give back love easily to others. This has made me more productive at my place of work.”

Clinic with the ambiance of a spa

As has clinics in Alabang and Makati, and is headed by Dr. Yanee Vasquez. Together with the AS team, she is tasked with the continuous study of body and skin care needs, and provides patients with holistic programs and services that help people become beautiful inside and out.

“These wellness programs include Reiki healing, detoxification, acupuncture and, of course, yoga,” Dr. Vasquez says. “Because AS wants to work on ‘inside and outside’ beauty, Gloribel has found that the most important change happens inside. I am also life-coaching her.”

For those who are undecided about undergoing treatment, Gloribel, now an avowed believer, says, “Go for it! That’s what I can say. Let go of the comments and criticisms about surgery. All of us are given freedom to do whatever makes us feel better, and surgery was a big help for me. It pushed me to make some major changes in my life emotionally, socially and spiritually—all in positive ways.”

The doctor is in

DR. Marlon O. Lajo belongs to the AS team. He was the surgeon responsible for Gloribel’s facial transformation, including nips and tucks on the nose and chin. Although he wants to help everyone, the doctor admits that not everyone is a good candidate for plastic surgery. “The clinic, including Dr. Vasquez and I, invite patients first for screening and a short talk to ascertain whether a patient is fit physically and psychologically. Aside from checking on a patient’s health and all the necessary parameters, we find out what are the patient’s expectations.”

If a patient has overblown, unrealistic expectations, Dr. Lajo takes a prudent route, although he explains this in jest. “I’m sorry, but we cannot transform people into Cindy Crawford,” he would like to tell a patient. But as a better alternative, he will show pictures of past plastic surgery operations to illustrate a more realistic set of expectations. “I keep these photos in my digital camera for easy reference,” he says. “By showing these pictures, I bring the patient’s dreams closer to reality.”

Dr. Lajo is a board certified plastic surgeon, a diplomate of the Philippine Board of Plastic Surgery, and a fellow of Philippine Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons Inc., a bona fide surgical society of the Philippine College of Surgeons (PCS). PCS only recognizes surgical societies whose members undergo duly-accredited training programs in order to attain the utmost in terms of surgical skills and ethical practices.

He underwent six years of formal training in plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery in the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital. He obtained his medical degree at the College of Medicine, UP-Manila. He also obtained his BS Biology at the same university, graduating cum laude with honors.

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