Husband of Filipina slain in Binghamton speaks up

by Ricky Rillera


NEW YORK (Apr. 7) — The body of Dolores Carbonilas Yigal, 53, who was among 13 people killed by a lone gunman in a shooting rampage in Binghamton, NY, will be removed from the hospital April 8 and transferred to an undisclosed funeral home before she is repatriated to the Philippines, her husband said.

Omri Yigal,53, said in a telephone interview with the Philippine Daily Mirror, a representative from the Philippine Consulate General came to see him on Sunday and “offered assistance to repatriate my wife’s body to the Philippines.”

“It would be unfair to them if I disclosed to you what arrangements were made,” he responded, when asked for the date when his wife would be repatriated and which funeral home she would be brought to.

Dolores Yigal was attending an English class at the American Civic Center in Broome County when Jiverly Wong, toting two handguns and wearing a bullet vest and a bag of bullets around his neck, opened fire and killed her along with 12 other people, mostly immigrants, on April 3. Wong later killed himself with a single bullet between the eyes.

Omri Yigal thought about his wife as a “woman of valor.” In describing Dolores, he quoted Proverbs 31 verses 10 to 31 from the Bible, which talks about the virtuous wife.  “She had all the qualities of a wife mentioned in these passages,” he said.

As a graduate student who is a year away from completing his masters degree in Judaic Studies at Brooklyn College, he said he and Dolores met as pen pals.  After corresponding with her for five months, he decided to visit the Philippines to personally meet her in September 2006. A few weeks later, they were married.

He and Doris lived in the Philippines until last year, when his wife obtained a visa that allowed her to move to the United States, fulfilling a lifelong dream.  He first went back home on February 14, 2008.

Doris, as she was fondly called by her loved ones, arrived in the United States in the Spring of 2008.  “This was a good time to transition her into our kind of weather,” Yigal said. “She felt the weather here was a bit cold but she was slowly adapting to it,” he continued.

Doris Yigal was from Talisay, in Cebu where she grew up and was a life-long seamstress. The eldest of four children, she has a 22-year-old adopted daughter, who she raised as her own. The child was left to Doris’ care after her biological mother left her when she was a two-and-a-half-weeks old infant. Despite the mother’s promise for her return, she never did, Omni Yigal said.

“When I met her it did not diminish whatever I have thought her to be…she was very truthful, gracious and kind to all. I found out that everything she said in her letters were true.”

When Omri Yigal was asked about how he was coping up with the death of his wife, he said: “I always say I feel fine but when reality sinks in, I realize I had a terrible loss. Quoting a part of that passage in the Book of Proverbs, he said, “Who can find a virtuous wife?/For her worth is far above rubies./The heart of her husband safely trusts her;/So he will have no lack of gain./She does him good and not evil/All the days of her life.”

He paused for a moment and found his words again, saying, “Doris represented my everything, my universe, and I lost my universe and I’m in a state of trying to move forward.”

For now, Omri Yigal said he will concentrate on his time, energy, and efforts preparing for her wife’s body to be laid to rest.  “I will make arrangements, I’ll cry and I’ll probably have loss of sleep.  I will take a plane with her on our way back to the Philippines, take part in the procession in her funeral, and walk away.  I will be in grief but I have to move on,” he said.

“When I get back to New York, I will ask my professor for a make-up semestral exams and take it from there,” he said, continuing with his pragmatic view of the situation.

He said he would continue on with a normal life and he plans to be a fund-raiser for Jewish hospitals, charities and synagogues when he graduates.

Being Jewish didn’t stop him from marrying Dolores, who was raised Catholic. Before entering into a relationship, there are basic steps which one has to undertake. “She passed my criteria,” he said.  But there was more to it and he said fidelity came in first.

“She was devoted to her adopted child. Imagine raising that child from birth to her being a grown-up lady now. She took care of her for 22 years like a parent should and that alone says something about her,” Omri Yigal said.

For him, physical features is not important. What matters most to him is what’s inside a woman’s heart, her character and behaviour, he said, adding that “beauty fades but what’s inside a woman’s heart does not.”

Yigal said his wife is survived by her mother, Christina, youngest sister Paz and brother Dino, who are all in Talisay, Cebu. Another sister, Carmen, is in California.

Meanwhile, the National Immigration Forum issued a statement regarding the tragedy offering its deepest condolences to the families of those who died.  It said, “The people who provide services to immigrants and refugees across the country are doing the Lord’s work, caring for our newest Americans and people who want to become members of our communities. This is a tragedy for America and for the immigrant community. We urge everyone to resist using this incident for political purposes in the contentious immigration debate.”

The Asian American Justice Center likewise released its statement about the incident. It said, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families and the Binghamton community.  This is a time for our nation to band together and rally around those deeply affected by the tragedy.  The facts in this incident have not been made clear and we encourage everyone to not rush to judgment.”

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