Melissa Roxas

Born in Manila, Philippines
Migration Date: 1986

In 1986, the same year after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, when Melissa was nine years old, she migrated along with two siblings to Los Angeles to be reunited with her mother. After graduating from high school in 1996, Melissa’s interest in community work, particularly in health care, manifested when she was a student at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).  She had the intention of one day going to medical school. 

Melissa spent one summer studying abroad in San Nicolas de Hidalgo University, Michoacan, Mexico and in the latter part of her college years, spent six months in Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago, Chile.  In Chile, she researched intercultural health of the Mapuche community, an indigenous people.  After her research project was completed, she backpacked throughout South America for about two months that included treks through Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina.  In addition to English and Filipino, Melissa is fluent in Spanish.

A gifted writer, Roxas’ body of poetry and creative writing earned her such accolades as a fellowship with PEN USA Rosenthal Emerging Voices and a fellowship with Kundiman for two consecutive years. Melissa also co-founded Habi Ng Kalinangan, or Habi Arts, a Los Angeles-based Filipino cultural organization dedicated to promoting community empowerment and progressive social change.

In 2005, Roxas helped to coordinate a 40+ delegation from the United States to take part in a fact-finding mission on human rights violations in the Philippines. The experience left a profound impression on her as she was inspired by the courage and strength she encountered talking to victims, and families of victims, of human rights violations perpetrated by the state.

She turned down an acceptance to medical school and opted instead to focus on grassroots community work. In 2007, Melissa traveled back to the Philippines to conduct research for a writing project and to dedicate more of her time to community health work. 

Melissa Roxas, an American citizen, was abducted at gunpoint on May 19th, 2009 by the Philippine military while on a medical mission in La Paz, Tarlac. Roxas was held against her will and tortured via physical beatings psychological torture and asphyxiation for six-days resurfacing in Quezon City on May 25th, 2009. 

Melissa Roxas is a victim and survivor of a human rights violation. We seek justice for Melissa Roxas, and are concerned that the perpetrators of her abduction and torture will not be prosecuted under the law because of the pattern of impunity in the Philippines. Melissa has testified her case in the Philippine Courts, and has yet to see justice for herself and for countless other victims of human rights abuses by the Philippine military.

Melissa is an American victim of state-sponsored abduction and torture in the Philippines and is continuing to pursue justice and accountability. Follow the campaign, Justice for Melissa: