Fil-Am teen skater staged show to raise funds for Yolanda survivors

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BAGUIO CITY—Filipino-American teen Aubrey Alabanza Akers is flying to Tacloban City this week from Baltimore, Maryland, to turn over up to $2,000 (around P87,760) that she helped raise to help recovery efforts in the supertyphoon “Yolanda”-stricken Visayas.


Akers, 17, a junior high school student and an avid figure skater, convinced other Baltimore teenagers to stage a benefit ice show last Nov. 29 two weeks after Yolanda devastated the Visayas and killed thousands.


She put up the benefit show, “Tulay ng Pag-asa (Bridge of Hope),” online at


“The least I [could] do for the typhoon victims was to use my God-given talent to raise awareness [about] their needs,” Akers said in an e-mail to the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Monday. “The Bridge of Hope ice show was the way we all could connect to the Filipinos on the other side of the world.”


Akers will be accompanied by her mother, Baguio-born urban planner and architect Mary Ann Alabanza-Akers, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at the Morgan State University in Baltimore.


The teen’s grandfather is Joseph Alabanza, a retired Baguio City architect, former Cordillera director of the National Economic and Development Authority, who also once served as the presidential assistant on urban reform in the Ramos administration.


Alabanza said he and his daughter had expressed interest in applying Baguio’s experience in its recovery from the magnitude-7.7 earthquake that struck the city in 1990, to the restoration of Tacloban City.


“It takes thorough planning [to rebuild a city]. I am certain the government has completed a rehabilitation plan, but I wish there was a way Baguio and Tacloban could share their respective experiences and model better ways of dealing with climate change,” Alabanza said.


Akers’ mother said her daughter was “so moved by the Yolanda disaster” that she organized the ice skating show at the Mount Pleasant Ice Arena to benefit the Center for Community Transformation, which has been helping out in the recovery.


Akers had been planning a similar show originally to benefit a Filipino orphanage until Yolanda struck, according to a Nov. 27, 2013, article in the Baltimore Sun.


The paper quoted the mother as saying: “I think it shows really where her [Akers] heart is… she’s very generous and caring and very attached to her Filipino heritage. When she looked at the photos of the damage and the suffering, she felt she had to contribute something.”


The American skaters who helped raise funds included Riley Callanan, Maya Jones, Tacey Brown, Abby Lawson, Katie Koster, Bridget and Lauren Carrig, Mary Jean Joyce, Chase Donnelson, Jessica Green, Margot Chirikjian, Chloe Roberts, Ryan Dunk, Ting Cui, Brenna Doherty and Olivia Watkins.


“I look forward to visiting Tacloban this week so I can listen to people’s stories about the typhoon and their hopes for the future. I know that Filipinos go through a lot of disasters but they are strong and resilient. The world needs to look at the Filipino people as a role model for picking up the pieces after calamities,” Akers said in her message.


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