Whenever celebrity doctor Victoria “Vicki” Belo of the famed Belo Medical Group returns home from a trip abroad, one thing is for sure:
Her luggage tips the scale to overweight.
From designer bags to shoes, heavy Diptyque candles to pounds of her favorite dark chocolate, and of course, her ever up-to-the-minute Apple gadgets, Dr. Belo quickly goes into “automatic shopping mode” the moment she lands in a foreign city.
“I can’t help it!” confessed the famed cosmetic surgeon, half laughing and half scolding herself as she sat down with The Sunday Times Magazine at her classy and cozy Makati home on Thursday evening.
“I guess it’s just always nice to bring a piece of a beautiful city home with you; like the scent of Paris from all these candles I have around the house,” she offered, raising her sculpted “Belo arms” in a sweeping gesture of her tastefully decorated living room.
“But I’m trying to curb it,” she promised, just as quickly as she burst into another girlish giggle.
Acknowledging her love for travel—and the shopping compulsion that comes with it—Dr. Belo looked back at her earliest days as a world explorer, and revealed to The Sunday Times Magazine that she was on and off airplanes since the age four.
“My mother was a travel agent back then, so she had lots of airline perks. She would always take me along on her trips,” she said of her adoptive mother Nena Belo. [Dr. Belo’s biological mother Chit Cancio is Nena’s sister].
“I remember being the only child one Easter Sunday on board a plane, and had all the Easter eggs to myself when the flight attendants said they organized a hunt for the kids,” Dr. Belo recalled gleefully.
“There weren’t as many kids—or Filipinos for that matter—traveling regularly back then as people do now,” she added pensively.
Besides the chocolate filled memory, another early travel habit that stood out from Dr. Belo’s trips with her mother was the fact that they hardly ever went sightseeing abroad. They mostly went shopping.
“You could say that’s where I got it,” she teasingly blamed her mother-daughter vacations for her shopaholic ways. “Since my mom was a travel agent, she’d been to all these places so many times so she never took me on a tour. She took me on a shopping spree!”
The doting daughter, however, effectively trumped her mother’s extravagant travel practice when she went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in April. Dr. Belo, who traveled “as friends” with her former flame Hayden Kho to the Mediterranean, also brought along her hairdresser and masseur.
The Sunday Times Magazine playfully asked the larger than life celebrity doctor, “What do you think God thought when He saw you boarding the plane for a pilgrimage with someone to do your hair and knead your back?”
“He probably thought it was sweet of me to let them experience such a special place on earth,” she replied honestly, without taking offense at the question.
“I know it might sound too decadent to some people but I’ll explain why I took my hairdresser and masseur on the trip,” she added candidly.
According to Dr. Belo, her hair has a life of its own and always needs taming with a hairdryer. On most of her travels abroad, the first thing she looks for is a salon where she can have her hair done, because “bad hair days” are very real for her.
“I get into a very bad mood when my hair’s a mess and all heavy,” she confessed. “I get so sungit talaga, and where would I ever find a salon in the Holy Land di’ba? Especially since we get up every day at 6:30 in the morning! So rather than be sungit when I should be soul-searching and enriching my spirit, I brought along Lisa,” she proudly presented her loyal staffer, who smiled lovingly at her very generous boss.
As for the masseur, Dr. Belo related, “You know how I personally do surgery and procedures everyday, visiting all my nine clinics around the metro. That always takes its toll on my back, so that every other day a massage is already a necessity to me.
“Thinking ahead again to the Holy Land pilgrimage, I knew that there would be lot of walking and a lot of land traveling involved via bus, which isn’t so comfortable naman, well, let’s just say I knew how my body would react.”
And so, just as Lisa had a once-in-a-life-time experience, so did Joel, who by the way was Hayden’s roommate throughout the two-week pilgrimage. [Hayden has gone on spiritual pursuits since his major scandal in 2009].
“Bringing two staffers along was also the perfect way to dismiss any gossip that Hayden and I are still an item. He had Joel with him in the room he was paying for, and I’m sure he also appreciated having a massage during the trip,” Dr. Belo laughed.
While Dr. Belo never fails to shock the public on bits of information about her lifestyle, she hardly ever offends them either because of her honesty and how she opens up about her personal perspectives.
“For me, I earn my money, I work so hard, and I never stole anything,” she stated a fact. “So I believe I deserve some luho in life. I can’t afford a private plane like some people I know but can afford to bring a hairdresser and masahista!”
Dr. Belo went on to say that she strictly goes by the rule of saving half of her earnings, spending most of the other half, while allotting enough for quietly doing her good deeds for others.
“I was listening to Joyce Meyer [a charismatic Christian author and speaker, and she said, ‘God never said you shouldn’t buy stuff or comforts in life; the only thing you have to remember is that you shouldn’t make that your god.’ So I go by that, and I think I’m OK,” she smiled.
Dr. Belo, who travels abroad every six to seven weeks, believes that seeing the world has led to her professional success and the closeness of her family.
"I usually go on training when I travel because I feel unproductive if I don’t. Then I leave three to four days for shopping and sightseeing,” she imparted.
"I’ve traveled all over the world for Belo Med—to Brazil where they specialize on butt lifts, the United States for lasers, and Europe for what they call ‘the gentler procedures.’
"The world has so much to teach me,” exclaimed the voracious learner, "and I think traveling is why I’m successful in what I do.”
On a personal level, she cherishes traveling regularly with her son Quark and daughter Cristalle Henares because going abroad is the only time they can really bond with one another.
"We’re all always busy in Manila so our trips make us closer every time,” the doting mom related. "We even have a trip once a year with their dad [my ex-husband]Atom, because we really enjoy being together.”
Now that Dr. Belo has practically seen most of the world, she had to think hard, which destinations she plans to visit next.
“I want to go to Morocco and India, but I’m afraid,” she candidly said again, laughing. “I guess it’s more of revisiting places that have been magical to me like Africa, Provence, the Tuscan area of Italy . . . And then there’s Croatia where we’ve never been to but where Quark has a love letter is installed in their Museum of Heartache,” she enthused.
For the doctor who is in the business of beauty, the world is such a beautiful place, that she encourages everyone to take the opportunity to travel whenever they can.
“Traveling is just so enriching on so many levels, and the best thing about traveling today if you ask me is Instagram!” she exclaimed.
Why so? Because the sharer that Dr. Vicki Belo is, “going to beautiful places now has an added purpose of allowing others to experience them with you.”
* In March, the celebrity doctor went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with former flame Hayden Kho, her hairdresser and masseur; with nothing to hide on her platonic relationship with Hayden now, Dr. Belo openly shared her experiences on her ‘best ever trip’ via Instagram INSTAGRAM PHOTOS PUBLISHED WITH PERMISSION FROM DR. BELO