Chavez, now 34, modeled his look after Reeve, who played the Last Son of Krypton in four Hollywood films before his death in 2004, as well as the animated version of Superman on Super Friends. Chavez says he was always attracted to Superman’s overwhelming love for mankind and how he “did good deeds for truth, justice, and the Filipino way—oops, I mean the American way, originally,” he says with a laugh.
He was an acne-riddled 21-year-old when he began the procedures. The first, he says, was rhinoplasty in 1998, and he’s had numerous others since, including three more nose jobs, lip injections, two chin augmentations to give him the signature cleft, three tummy tucks, a facelift, skin pigment orientation to whiten it, a butt implant, hip implants, and numerous steroid injections to various parts of his body. Many have alleged that Chavez suffers from body dysmorphic disorder—a mental illness where one becomes obsessed with his or her own body image, and believes one’s own body to be inferior. But Chavez brushes those claims off. He’s just a big, big, BIG Superman fan, he says.
Chavez’s home in Calamba is a shrine to Superman, filled with various forms of memorabilia, including comics, posters, bed sheets, figurines, and several larger-than-life statues of the superhero—which he often poses alongside.
As far as the Superman films are concerned, while his favorite is Superman II, he says he’s enjoyed all the Superman films, including 2006’s oft-derided Superman Returns, because “every Superman movie for me, whether good or bad, is a history that follows the evolution of this comic hero,” adding, “If it is a Superman movie, I love it!”
These days, Chavez gets paid handsomely to make appearances as “Philippine Superman.” He averages between $600-$1,000 per appearance, but says most of his activities consist of charity work, including visiting orphanages and attending fundraising events. In addition to working as a costume designer, the graduate of Laguna College of Business and Arts runs the Herbert Chavez Talent Workshop—specializing in events, as well as talent management forcosplayers and pageant participants.
“Being a superhero is not about one’s costume, nationality, sexuality, or religion,” he says. “Everybody can be Superman because true heroics come from your heart to help, to serve, and to give happiness—especially to children. We must fight for truth, justice, and the HUMAN way!”