We all had a cartoon character or superhero that we idolized as kids. But one guy in the Philippines took his idolization way further than just tuning in to every show. Meet South East Asia’s answer to Superman; you won’t believe his transformation and the lengths he’s gone to in order to achieve it.
In 2015 37-year-old Herbert Chavez from Calamba, Philippines was refused a 24th cosmetic procedure by doctors on E! TV show Botched after they discovered he had effectively been poisoning himself in his attempt to look like Superman. Where did his obsession with the superhero begin?
Chavez has been a fan of Superman for most of his life. As a five-year-old boy he totally fell in love with the TV show – and it was a love that only deepened the further he went into adulthood.
By 1997 Chavez started to change his appearance. He began wearing blue contact lenses and using whitening make up in an effort to look more like his idol. But this was only the beginning.
It wasn’t long before his idolization of the comic book character took a dramatic turn. A year after turning to the contact lenses Chavez had his inaugural nose job. After this procedure the floodgates opened.
Chavez continued following his dream of becoming Clark Kent’s all-powerful alter ego. Over the next ten years he had more nose jobs, whitened his skin, realigned his jaw, had injections in his lips and received implants in his hips, pecks and backside.
By 2011 Chavez was well into his personal transformation, but he didn’t let up. The wannabe Superman kept going, tweaking bits here and there to keep up this manufactured image. Surely this couldn’t go on forever?
“It is hard living up to people’s expectations as a living superhero,” said Chavez. “That is the reason I have had so many surgeries because I undergo maintenance procedures.” But what was fueling this obsession?
“I feel like a superhero whenever I pull on the costume,” Chavez told Barcroft Media. “My mission is not to save the world but to help in my own small way and bring a smile to the faces of local children.’’
Chavez’s obsession with Superman doesn’t end with his determination to look like the comic-book character. He’s also in the Guinness Book of Records for owning the world’s largest Superman memorabilia collection, which consists of 1,253 pieces. He reckons, however, that this is a conservative estimate.
Despite the previous operations, and the denial by doctors to carry out extra work, Chavez still wants more. On his wish list are permanent lens implants and a leg-lengthening procedure which, if it goes ahead, would be excruciatingly painful.
Chavez is well aware that to emulate his hero takes a lot of work. “If you talk about superheroes, the expectation of people is that they are flawless, they do not get hurt, they do not die,” he said. “But as human beings, we can only copy their looks.”
Chavez’s dramatic transformation to a real-life Superman hasn’t gone unnoticed in the Philippines. He’s become something of a celebrity in his native country thanks to a number of on-screen appearances.
The wannabe superhero has so far spent more than $6,500 on his Superman surgeries. Considering the average hourly wage in the Philippines is around $1.30, this is a relative fortune.
Luckily for Chavez, however, he has a pretty big talent for funding his obsession. By the age of 22 his flair for design was making him a ton of money as a dress designer for Saudi Arabian royalty.
This flair for design continues to fund Chavez’s outgoings today. He owns a number of dress-making and costume shops that cater for celebrities and the movie industry. These also allow him to create his own costumes.
His story has been shared around the world, but the one person every boy wants to impress is their mom, and Chavez’s couldn’t be more proud. “He has become well known in our community, he has become [the] people’s idol,” she said
Chavez revealed that his aim in life as to show his fellow countrymen that anyone can be a superhero – not by demonstrating superhero powers, but by realizing their true potential and spreading positivity. Has he, however, had any misgivings about what he’s put his body through?
“I totally don’t have any regrets,” said Chavez. “What is there for me to regret? Everything that has happened in my life has been positive, and because of Superman.”
Chavez does know, though, that such extreme body manipulation can’t go on forever. “When my body says it cannot endure it anymore, or when my doctor says that my body cannot handle it because of age, then I will stop,” he revealed.