Joji Mendoza and her husband Bing were supposed to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary on June 10, 2020, but he passed away less than a year prior due to chronic kidney disease. Still picking up the pieces, she expected it to be filled with sadness, grief, and longing. Little did she know, there was a sweet surprise waiting for her that day—and the years after that—from her forever love.
On their first special day apart, Joji woke up to a home filled with “Happy Anniversary” balloons decked out with pictures of her and her late partner. On top of their dining table was a bouquet of pink and white roses specially curated for her, and it turned out to be just the first of many.
Year after year, there’s been more—on three special occasions in particular: every Feb. 14 (Valentine’s Day), June 10 (their wedding anniversary), and Aug. 19 (her birthday). Each flower arrangement is made special, complete with important reminders of his love through personalized letters. He hasn’t missed any since, not even once.
“It’s a reminder that his love is eternal and even beyond his lifetime,” as Joji put it.
P.S. I love you
It all began with a scheduled email that their daughter Aly received three days before their 25th year as a married couple. She got it in the wee hours of that morning, but she was only able to muster enough courage to open it two days later. Bing’s message contained special orders that she had to follow “completely and carefully.”
“I am sending this to you in the off chance that I’m not in my right mind or worse, gone. I hope not,” the email began. In the scheduled message, Bing enumerated instructions about how he wanted to celebrate their first wedding anniversary without him. From the flowers, to the food, to a trip to the salon, it had a little bit of everything that makes Joji smile.
Aly made it a point to follow each step for a successful surprise. She and their house help ordered party decorations online, printed photos of her mom and dad, and started setting up for the celebration at 11:00 p.m. when Joji was asleep the night before their 25th wedding anniversary. They were done by 5:30 a.m., half an hour before Joji’s alarm went off at 6:00 a.m.
On top of the “Happy Anniversary” balloons, what made Joji even more emotional was the lovely arrangement of pink and white roses as it meant more than just flowers to the couple. When Bing was still courting her, Joji was so torn between him and another suitor that she had to ask God for a sign. “Sabi ko, ‘Lord, kung sino ang magbibigay sa akin ng white roses, siya na.’ Surprisingly, suddenly one day, Bing showed up with a bouquet of white roses, so there goes my answered prayers,” she recalled to PhilSTAR L!fe. Complementing the white blossoms in the surprise were pink roses, simply because he knew how much she loves them.
What she thought was going to be a day wrapped up in sorrow turned out to be “overwhelming in a good way” for Joji. “In spite of the longing and sadness kasi wala na siya, my heart was full, and even overflowing. Hagulgol talaga ako sa iyak,” she said.
Bing’s surprises from his grave kept coming since, with a different set of flowers and letters each year for every special occasion. To this day, they still have no idea how he’s pulling it off and how he’s able to pay for it as Bing made the florist promise to keep it a secret between them.
“I receive flowers every Valentine’s Day, our wedding anniversary, and my birthday. We don’t know how he managed to pull this off because he was already very sick and bedridden at the time he wrote the scheduled email to our daughter. I just know that the florist contacts our daughter a couple of days before those three events yearly about the delivery of flowers for me.”
It’s very much like Cecelia Ahern’s debut novel P.S. I Love You, which has been known as one of the greatest love stories ever written. In the book, Holly lost Gerry due to a terminal illness. Knowing how hard it would be for the love of his life, he planned ahead and prepared a series of letters before his death to ease her grief and encourage her to learn to live again and move forward in life without him.
For three years now, Joji has been living a life that seems straight out of P.S. I Love You. That’s one of the greatest gifts of books, isn’t it? It can reflect back to us and our own lives, with certain moments that make each story unique in more ways than one.
‘Deepest love, truest partnership’
They say consistency is one of the foundations of a relationship—and this is something Bing has continued to uphold since he and Joji crossed paths 32 years ago.
Their love story started in February 1991, when Bing requested to their common friends that Joji be invited to dinner with them. Since their casual meet-up, they agreed to have dinner together every week as a barkada.
“It went on until one day, Bing invited me out for lunch, as in just the two of us, then on dinners, movies, concerts,” Joji said.
“He would visit me every day at home after work, even after a long, tiring day, even just to get a glimpse of me at our gate before heading home. Bing was an ardent suitor and my parents really liked him. Mabait and magalang daw kasi si Bing,” she said.
They officially became a couple in June 1991 and got married in June 1995.
Throughout their marriage, Bing was always sincere, respectful, and true to his words. “He always made me feel special. He always made an effort for me. He was very thoughtful, he was very simple lang, and hindi mayabang,” she mused.
While he was a man of few words, Joji described him as a “very dedicated” husband and father. “He had a sense of sacrifice. He placed our needs first before his own,” she added.
Aside from his calmness and patience, Joji liked how he just embraced her imperfections with open arms. “Bing accepted my faults—he focused on my good traits rather than my flaws.”
Bing succumbed to a long-term illness in August 2019, just two days after Joji’s birthday and three days before her daughter’s birthday.
Joji opened up that she’s still heartbroken to this day. It’s true what they say about grief, she said, that it never completely disappears—people just learn to live with it over time.
“I’m still grieving. We were happily married for 24 years so I guess the loss doesn’t just go away suddenly. I don’t think there is an expiry date to grief, but I’m learning to incorporate my husband’s absence and memories into my life so that the pain won’t consume me. It gets a tiny little bit better each day.”
Their time as a happy couple may have been short-lived, but it’s one that she’ll always be grateful for. “I had the privilege to be his wife. We had 24 happy years of the deepest love and truest partnership. I am very blessed and thankful indeed to experience immense love from Bing,” she explained.
“I am loved by my husband in the purest and truest form, even beyond his lifetime. I realized that it is not the length of time that we were together but the great love we shared.”
Joji has no idea how long or for how many years the surprises from her deceased partner will be, but for now, she’s just taking each one with great joy and appreciation. “It’s such a gift to experience this kind of love,” she said. “My Bing is truly extraordinary.”