Memorial held for Fil-Am teenager found dead in NJ | Inquirer

Memorial held for Fil-Am teenager found dead in Newark Bay

Hayley Alvarado’s death prompts an outpouring of tributes
/ 09:45 PM March 19, 2024

Hayley Alvarado

Hayley Alvarado’s family poses for a photo at Robinson’s Place Residences in the Philippines: (from left) Hayley’s youngest brother Hanson on their mother Portia’s lap, brother Harley, Stephen Alvarado and Hayley. CONTRIBUTED

SAN FRANCISCO – The death of 18-year-old Filipino American student Hayley Alvarado, whose body was recovered from Newark Bay in New Jersey earlier this month, has prompted an outpouring of tributes.

Hayley’s father, Stephen Alvarado, fondly remembered his daughter’s “contagious laughter” and “the way her eyes (lit up) with joy whenever she played in the park near our home.”

“Watching Hayley grow into the remarkable person she had become was a true blessing,” he said. “She faced challenges with grace and resilience, and her determination to always strive for the best inspired us all. These memories are just a glimpse into the beautiful life Hayley lived.”

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Hayley, who had been missing since she left her Jersey City home on Dec. 17 last year, was found dead in Newark Bay near a park in Bayonne. The medical examiner has not yet determined the cause of death.

A memorial for Hayley was held on March 18 at the Greenville Memorial Home in Jersey City, followed by a funeral mass on March 19 at the Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church.

Young Hayley with aunt Yul

Yul Avestruz (in photo with the young Hayley) has been making arrangements for Hayley’s “homecoming” in Tacloban. CONTRIBUTED

“(Hayley’s death) pains me every day,” said Hayley’s aunt, Yul Avestruz, who described the teenager as “the rose of our family…sweet, adorable and charming in many ways.”


Avestruz has been making arrangements for Hayley’s “homecoming” in Tacloban, the family’s hometown, where Alvarado’s cremated remains will be buried.

Avestruz recalled their recent family trip to the Philippines, where Hayley “was ecstatic to frolic on the beautiful sand of Bohol.”

“Our two-week vacation was the most memorable for me. Since then, she had randomly messaged me about her life’s updates and I couldn’t be prouder (of her achievements),” Avestruz wrote in her online tribute. “I love you more than words can say.”


Hayley’s cousin Ayra Alvarado said she felt proud when Hayley graduated summa cum laude in high school and recalled how Hayley “was fond of hugging me…how caring and kind she was as a little girl.”

Another cousin, Alika Eloisa Alvarado, remembered how Hayley’s smile “could light up the whole room.”

“I will miss you, our sweet Angel. Ate Alika loves you and I will forever cherish our moments together,” she wrote.

Hayley’s public speaking mentor, Meghan Gill, described the teenager as “one of the dearest, most talented and brightest lights in our world, shining so brilliantly for those who had the honor of knowing her.”

“Lee won the ‘excellence in public speaking’ award in my class last summer. Her topic was ‘eat the rich,’ putting 100 percent of her entire self, her passion and intellect into the presentation,” she wrote. “May the lord embrace and hold her close, now and forevermore.”

Teacher Roya Saqib recalled how Hayley was not only a talented student “but also a wise and compassionate individual who possessed a depth of knowledge beyond her years.”

Hayley Alvarado

Hayley (center) spent time with her cousins in one of the family’s trips to Tacloban. CONTRIBUTED

“She cared deeply about creating a better world for all and was a staunch advocate for social justice,” she wrote. “Lee’s commitment to fighting against racism and discrimination was truly inspiring. Despite her young age, she astounded me with her profound political awareness.”

Hayley’s friend and classmate, Milo Ferrara, recalled how he mistakenly thought Hayley was shy. “She might have taken a day or two to warm up, but Lee quickly showed herself to be outspoken, bantering confidently with us and our teacher. Lee was possibly the funniest person I’ve ever known, Ferrara wrote.

Another friend, Anjilena Osenenko, said she will always cherish the time they spent together, “every project, every book we read, every game we played, every show we watched, every moment in class.”

“Half of all that I am, the half I am proud of, is because of my best friend and the precious memories that we shared. I hope you rest peacefully, Lee,” Osenenko wrote.

In an interview with USA, Stephen Alvarado shared his message for Hayley’s peers and to the youth, in general:

“I hope this message stays with you during our time in this beautiful world. Balancing school and life can indeed be challenging, but I urge you to remain focused on your education,” Alvarado said.

“Every obstacle you encounter is a chance for growth and learning. Embrace these challenges, stay determined and never doubt your ability to overcome them. Keep moving forward, and always believe in yourself.”

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TAGS: death, Featured, Fil-Am, New Jersey, tragedy
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