Melissa Gibson Villanueva is a yoga teacher and the general manager of Gaia Retreats in Dingalan, Aurora. Inspired and on the path of inner and outer transformation, her journey has taken her from Canada to the Philippines as a scholar, activist and balikbayan.
In 2017 she launched a crowdfunding campaign to develop a patch of land where the mountain meets the sea on the Pacific coast. Here, she and her team have built an off-grid, bamboo yoga shala with glamping-style accommodations in an effort to connect personal wellness with social and ecological well-being. Gaia Retreats is a back-to-basics destination for those looking to recharge, marvel at starry skies, bath in nature sounds, and heed the invitation to salute the sun. Melissa hopes to inspire a generation of yogis towards the natural world and the spaciousness of the present moment- as two pathways to the soul.
Since 2003 Melissa has turned (and returned) to yoga as a way to stay grounded, balanced and courageous. She is grateful to many teachers, notably Shaugh Jenson, her first teacher in Saskatoon, Jovan Mercier in Montreal and Nami Soga in New York City. She completed her 200H Yoga Teacher Training in 2015 under the guidance of Eileen Tupaz and Abbey Rivadelo at Whitespace Mind and Body Wellness Studio in Manila.
Other nerdy details:
Melissa completed an MA in Human Geography from the University of Toronto in 2012 and a BA in Political Science from Brooklyn College CUNY in 2010. Her scholarly work has examined the remittance phenomenon in the Philippines, particularly how institutions, including banks and NGOs, understand migrant workers and families. She worked with a non-profit organization, TIGRA, in New York City in 2009 where she helped pilot the Remit4Change program. It was at that time that she also became engaged in alternative economies in theory and in practice through the solidarity economies movement. Since 2011 she has been based in Manila, directing TIGRA Philippines’ operations. In 2013 she spearheaded TIGRA’s involvement in a post-Typhoon Haiyan project with fisherfolk in Bantayan Island, helping to rebuild hundreds of boats for small-scale artisinal fishers and laying the groundwork for longterm transitions towards community-based coastal resource management, women’s empowerment, and cooperative enterprise. Currently Melissa is the Manila-based coordinator for the Canada-Philippines Alternative Transnational Economies project (ATE). As part of the project she is researching Filipino-Canadian youth involvement post-Typhoon Haiyan.
Thanks for visiting!