Medical Tourism in the Philippines

So this time I watched another television show, but this time it was from the Philippines and it has a cosmetic surgery focus. The show is called Belo Beauty 101 and it was created by and for the Belo Medical Group – a large cosmetic surgery and beauty product company in the Phillipines that was founded by Vicky Belo. The show explains the basics of cosmetic surgery procedures and always has various guests that are both everyday people and celebrities, in each episode these guests have various procedures done. While the show is hosted by Vicky’s daughter, Cristalle, the celebrity guests talk with Vicky about their experiences and what they recommend. Belo Beauty 101 has been running since 2007 and is in both Tagalog (the national language of the Philippines) and English. If you want to watch the show and you only speak one of those languages (I assume English) be prepared to be occasionally confused by the constant switching back and forth between them.



I watched a few random episodes from season 7 which is the most recent season. When I originally saw the description for the show I expected it to be a bit more graphic as it had mentioned that it showed the actual procedures being done. While it does show some graphic footage it is sped up and the editing cuts from one scene to another very quickly in the procedure scenes. Additionally, the show seems to have more of an emphasis on the stories of persons undergoing procedures and the results achieved rather than the actual procedures.


I was also surprised to learn about a lot of smaller basic procedures that exist. In one episode a male celebrity wanted to get rid of his love handles so he consulted Belo, they decided a good procedure would be to freeze his cellulite in that area to kill the fat cells. I didn’t know that was a thing until now… Honestly I couldn’t stop yelling ‘JUST EXERCISE!’ at my laptop screen but I had to remember that this was a cosmetic surgery show, they aim for slender but they like to get there the easy way as depicted by Belo Medical’s Instagram.



Celebrities are really open about their plastic surgeries and Belo Medical has various celebrity ambassadors and sponsors. This ties back to the episode of Get it Beauty that I watched where celebrities were heavily featured throughout the episodes, there isn’t as much of a stigma around plastic surgery so some celebrities don’t seem to feel the need to hide it that much.


When you look into their services and products it becomes much more apparent that they provide more than just traditional cosmetic surgery, I mean they have various skin care product lines and weight management programs that don’t necessarily have anything to do with liposuction. So would I call them a hybrid or just acknowledge the fact that in more advanced cosmetic surgery countries there are just way more options?


For the Philippines there seems to be insufficient statistics regarding how commonplace cosmetic surgery is and what the most popular procedures are, however I was able to find statics regarding the Philippines’s major medical tourism industry. This means that their surgeries are so cheap that it attracts hundreds of thousands of foreigners who otherwise could not afford it. Additionally the Philippines is already a bit of a tourist destination, thus many patients have recovery vacations thereafter their procedures. Now the sponsor from the first few episodes of Belo Beauty 101 season 7 makes sense, the sponsor company was a resort at Boracay island. In 2006 the Philippines earned an estimated $200 million from medical tourism which put it up in the same league as established medical tourism areas like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.


Whilst I did know this was a thing in Singapore, I didn’t know it was a thing in my mother’s homeland… oh wait! Yes I did, my family and I used to go to the Philippines to get dentistry work done because we couldn’t afford to do everyone at once in Australia. Good job Mary! Really putting two and two together there…



One comment

  1. I find the switching between languages to be quite unique for a show and also closes itself off to broader audiences and cultures. I find the whole thing fascinating as i have a similar outlook of ‘just exercise’. It seems a common culture trope is about appearance and how we look. I wonder if the way each culture deems beauty differently and how many cultures are now influenced by Western ideas of beauty.
    I found it interesting that our culture is more likely to flock over there for these procedures due to price. I guess it makes sense as based on stereotype our culture is a lot more vain.


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