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Actor Gardo Versoza's brush with death spotlights risk of hidden heart attacks

(Photos courtesy: Instagram account of Ivy Vicencio, wife of actor Gardo Versoza)

When veteran actor Gardo Versoza suffered a heart attack without realizing it in March 2023, he joined the ranks of Filipinos who fell victim to the silent threat subverting the organ we too often take for granted. 

His close call was a cautionary tale spotlighting why we should become more vigilant guardians of our health.

In a Facebook post, as Versoza related, what began as manageable pain during his normal active life quickly cascaded into a damaged, erratic heartbeat. The true underlying cause only became clear after a thorough set of medical examinations. 

He already had a heart attack and he didn’t know.

Nagsimula siya noong nagkaroon ako ng mga long bike ride na 2 weeks apart. After that, a few weeks after, nagkaroon ako ng sudden pain sa likod. Sobrang unbearable! Akala ko naman parang pagod o kaya ngawit lang. Kaya ginamitan ko ng mga pamahid. Pero after a while, bumabalik pa rin ‘yung pain. So nagpatingin na ako. Para daw makasigurado, pina-ECG (electrocardiogram) at chest X-ray ako. Doon nakita na medyo erratic ‘yung heart beat ko kaya sinabihan ako na kailangan ko nang mag-angiogram," he narrated.

(It started when I had long bike rides 2 weeks apart. After that, a few weeks later, I had a sudden back pain. It's so unbearable! I thought maybe I was tired or maybe just having muscle pains. So I used ointments. But after a while, the muscle pains still came back. So I decided to consult an expert. To be sure, I had an electrocardiogram and a chest X-ray. There they saw that my heart beat was a bit erratic, so I was told that I needed to have an angiogram.)

"‘Yun pala, sa bahay pa lang, I had a heart attack na! Kaya pagdating ko doon, damaged na ‘yung heart! In-assume ko lang na okay ako, fit and healthy ako. Hindi pala! Nu’ng ginagawa nila ‘yung procedure, halo-halo ‘yung pumapasok sa isip ko. Baka ito na ‘yung paraan ng pagkuha sa akin ni Lord. ‘If it’s Your will, so be it.’ Pero sa awa ng Diyos, nandito pa rin,” he added.

(I never expected it, from home, I already suffered a heart attack! So when I got there at the hospital, my heart was already damaged! I just assumed that I was okay, I was fit and healthy. But I was wrong. When they (doctors) were doing the procedure, all sorts of things came to my mind. Maybe this is the Lord's way of taking my life. 'If it's Your will, so be it.' But by God's mercy, I'm still here.)

This stealthy nature makes cardiac issues so dangerous. Unlike Philippine cinema depictions, real-world heart attacks don't always announce themselves with the dramatic clutches and collapses that allow timely treatment. 

Warning signs can be more discrete, slower to emerge, or mistaken for other conditions. Versoza's story demonstrates the importance of preemptive action through regular check-ups, screenings, and openness discussing heart health concerns with one's doctor. Managing risk factors like high cholesterol, hypertension, smoking and inactivity reduces likelihood of problems down the line.

But should chest pains or shortness of breath occur, immediate medical attention is imperative. Securing swift diagnosis and care in those situations saves both heart muscle and lives. 

Public awareness campaigns must better educate the public on responding to potential symptoms seriously.

Moreover, recovering from a heart condition requires diligent lifestyle change and medication adherence to prevent recurrences. 

Support systems encouraging mental health and diet discipline are also key. On an individual level, it means consciously treating our heart with the forever care it needs. On a societal level, promoting heart disease prevention and access to heart health information remains vital.

Philippine Heart Month

February in the Philippines is a month dedicated to cherishing the love for our own hearts.

The Philippine Heart Month, established in 1973 by virtue of Proclamation No. 1096, serves as a vital reminder that amidst the romance and festivities, we must prioritize the silent champion within our chest, and perhaps the hardest working organ.

But why is this initiative so crucial? Because heart diseases pose a very real threat in the Philippines. 

According to the Department of Health, cardiovascular diseases remain the top causes of illness, disability, and even death in the Philippines, claiming countless lives each year. 

Reports from the 2022 Family Health Survey Information System revealed over 155,000 Filipinos currently have cardiovascular disease. Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), meanwhile, also showed that ischemic heart disease remains the top cause of death in 2021 and 2022. Hypertensive (high blood pressure) diseases ranked 6th in 2021 and 5th in 2022. Other heart diseases were 11th in 2021 and 8th in 2022. 

On the list of top illnesses, hypertension is the 2nd leading cause with 410 cases per 100,000 population based on the 2020 Philippine Health Statistics. 

Major risk factors like tobacco, alcohol, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity can raise blood pressure, lipids, glucose, and obesity levels. These are all strongly linked to cardiovascular disease.

Stroke, hypertension, and ischemic disease are among the most common cardiovascular ailments affecting Filipinos. This grim statistic isn't simply a number; it represents families shattered, dreams cut short, and a future dimmed.

The significance of Philippine Heart Month lies in its power to change this narrative. It's a month-long campaign aimed at:

  • Shining a light on the gravity of heart disease, dispelling myths and misconceptions while emphasizing its risk factors and preventable nature;
  • Promoting healthy lifestyles;
  • Encouraging physical activity and balanced diets; and
  • Advocating for smoking cessation; stress management; and accessible healthcare.

The campaign empowers individuals to take control of their heart health as it highlights the need for affordable screenings, early diagnosis, and proper treatment facilities, ensuring everyone has a chance to keep their hearts healthy.

More importantly, making good lifestyle choices is the best way to improve your heart's health and to keep it strong. To reduce the risk of developing heart-related problems, here are some simple things you can consider:

  • Exercise regularly;
  • Eat a balanced, varied diet;
  • Monitor your blood pressure regularly;
  • Maintain a healthy weight;
  • Consider how you manage stress;
  • Control the amount of cholesterol rich-food you intake;
  • Get regular health checks by a professional.

Philippine Heart Month also fosters community support and a sense of shared responsibility, encouraging individuals, organizations, and the government to work together in building a heart-healthy Bagong Pilipinas.

POST RECOVERY. On October 29, 2023 Versoza posted this on his X (formerly Twitter) account that showed him enjoying a fun physical activity with friends.

Gardo Versoza's candid sharing of his private health crisis has, in a way, done a public service. It puts a relatable face to the cold statistics around cardiovascular disease. It reminds us that a threat to our hearts is a threat to our very lives. As our resilient beats clock our mortality, we must listen more closely to the subtle cues of the organ sustaining each precious moment.

For more information, please contact the following:

Department of Health


Telephone No:

(632) 8651-7800

local 5003-5004

(632) 165-364

Malasakit Program Office

(02) 8651 – 7800

Local: 1810 • 1811 • 2711


Email Address:

Philippine Heart Center

(02) 89252401


Philippine Heart Association

+632 8470-5525

website:  (PIA-NCR)

About the Author

Jerome Carlo Paunan



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