Cosmetic surgery procedures are usually done to correct a physical abnormality or to enhance a normal physical feature to improve and boost appearance – such as to smooth out wrinkles, augment or reduce breasts, or reshape a nose. According to Dr. Jose Artemio “Joey” Luat many Filipinos have become open about the procedure in recent years. He credits Dr. Vicky Belo and Dr. Manny Calayan for spearheading the industry and paving the way for Filipinos to be open about cosmetic surgery in the country.
“Before, people would not admit having undergone under the knife while most are afraid to undergo even a single, simple procedure,” Dr. Luat said.
Coming from a family of doctor -- his dad is the famous internist in Cubao whose clients included the family of the late showbiz’ star builder German Moreno and his sister is an anesthesiologist – the amiable doctor said he has done enhancement practically everything from head to toe. But there is one thing he said he will never do – that is sex change. “I do enhancement, but not sex change. I’ve done breast augmentation for gay clients pero hanggang doon lang, very limited and I won’t advice others to do it. Sex change is no longer enhancement but changing the person already,” he explained.
Is cosmetic surgery for everyone? “Nowadays if one can pay he or she can have it. But for me I would rather see patients have less procedure. Less is more in cosmetic surgery. Mas konti o tamang-tama lang yung ginawa sa inyo mas okay yun. Mas konti, mas simple, mas maganda. Enough na yung nakitang gumanda siya. Yung may pinapagaya I tell them honestly kapag hindi kaya o hindi bagay. I advise them kung hanggang saan lang pwede depending on the structure or features of his or her face,” Dr. Luat stressed.
The trend for cosmetic surgery has been becoming big in the Philippines and offers great opportunity as good business among Filipino doctors and to the country as well according to Luat. “The future is bright for this industry and our doctors are at par, even better that our colleagues in Singapore and Korea. In fact our mentors are coming from the most developed countries in the US and Europe because that’s where we take training. So ahead tayo sa ating Asean counterparts, we don’t really have to align with them in the so-called Asean integration.
“Because the real truth, mas advance tayo kesa sa kanila. Then with the alignment baka ma-displace pa yung professionals natin kasi we have this mentality na mas magaling kapag foreigner.”
Cosmetic surgery used to have women as clients, but today, men are doing it as well. As some say there is something about cosmetic surgery that makes an individual feel better and live a better and happier life. “The reason for enhancement is actually for upliftment of morale. But people also seek procedure because of marital problems like iniwan siya ng asawa at pinagpalit sa may malaking boobs. I advice them to think twice kasi baka naman hindi yun ang reason bakit siya iniwan. It’s not really the money after all. I talk to clients bakit gusto nila gumanda. It’s okay if it’s for upliftment or because of work, but if they’re doing it for somebody else, I advice them huwag na lang magpagawa because they may regret later.”
Dr. Luat is a general surgeon with five years residency at De Los Santos Medical Center. For some reasons he shifted to cosmetic surgery which entailed another 3 years of training, then further training in Japan and the US. He said he has been trained and has been doing procedures for breast enhancement, eyes and face, eyebags, facelift, deep seating of eyes, nose lift, and liposuction. “Pwede ipagawa sabay-sabay yung mata, ilong, and breast surgery, or breast surgery and liposuction. As long as the patient has clearance from a heart doctor at wala siyang walang health problems.”
His clients come from all walks of life -- celebrities, mothers, teenagers, male patients. “Maraming Pilipino ngayon ang nagpapagawa. Yung mga OFWs pag umuuwi, o yung mga nagbabasyon especially pag December. Sinasabay na nila yung enhancement nila.”
He said weights between aesthetic and therapeutic operation. If therapeutic is more important, he doesn’t do the aesthetic part. “I don’t do clients for the sake of money. I advice and give options. If only for vanity’s purpose, hindi ko ginagawa. Depending on the cosmetic procedure performed, the overall result should show improvement and enhancement in physical appearance boosting body image and self-confidence and self-esteem.
But therapeutic and enhancement procedures sometimes go together. “Orthopedic docs seek our help for their patients with back pains or knee issues due to obesity or heavy weights. We come in for loss weight through liposuction or tummy tuck before the orthopedic doctor can perform surgery on their patients. Another one, the mitosis of upper eyelid may cause impairment of vision, may nakaharang for proper vision so binabawasan yung skin and fats. There really is this combination of management aesthetic or enhancement and therapeutic.”
During my interview, a 65-year old woman was undergoing liposuction. “As long as the heart can take it pati yung anesthesia, it’s okay. It’s a major surgery.
From his years of experience as cosmetic surgeon, Luat said he has done liposuction to an 82 year old woman both for health reason and aesthetic. But for teenagers he prefers doing certain procedure at 18. “I only do nose or the rhinoplasty procedure for teenagers at 18, kasi pede pa mabago yung feature niya. At 18, the usual normal problem lang is tataba o papayat siya pero yung features permanent na so we can see kung ano yung bagay sa kanya. I also believe in non-surgical techniques and natural process like what our elders do such as hilot/pindot ng ilong for instance. Kahit yung ulo na flat nabibilog pa kapag bata pa so okay yun.”
Is cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery the same? Plastic surgeon does the reconstructive surgery (done for a patient with physical damages or defects resulting from accident, burn or physical trauma). These procedure may include necessary surgery like skin-grafting for serious burns, reconstructing a dislodged eye, repairing a broken nose or jaw, or treating an unseemly birthmark across the face. The case of actor and health buff Lance Raymundo is one according to Luat.
Dr. Luat keeps clinic at Rejuva Skin at the 2nd floor of Delos Santos. When not doing enhancement procedures, he lends his precious time doing surgery both for paying or charity patients of the hospital. He also loves the fast life. If not busy tinkering his race cars, he joins local and international races here and abroad.