Nelson Mallari, turning 40 on December 19, died in a government hospital after clinging on to dear life for seven days despite massive blood clots in the brain where the skull had been cracked. He figured in a freak traffic accident in Mabalacat, Pampanga on July 20. He was then riding his bicycle when a motorized bicycle hit him and he fell from his bike.
He did not die campaigning for the defense of the Aeta peoples ancestral domain. In fact he lived for the campaign not just for Aeta self-determination but also for the aspirations of all indigenous peoples in the Philippines.
As secretary-general of the Katribu Partylist, which sought congressional seats in the 2010 elections, Ka Nelson, as the IP community calls him, was a staunch speaker not just for indigenous peoples rights, but also the national democratic principles of the Filipino mass movement.
He did not die from a motor-riding duo's bullet. In fact he lived and survived a systematic surveillance against him during the hard times under then Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2.
Ka Nelson, his family and other members of his community in Nabuclod, Florida Blanca knew why he had to leave home. They all understood the sacrifices that went with his decision to keep on organizing other Aeta and indigenous people's groups despite the threat to his life.
He had to live away from his family and constituents. He was then barangay council member, after a successful stint as Kabataang Barangay chairperson of Nabuclod, where many Aeta families settled after the devastating Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991. It was to be Ka Nelson's chance to be in Congress as Katribu Partylist's third nominee.
Ka Nelson then went to several more indigenous peoples territories, in the process educating himself on the people's plight and enriching the unity and strengthening ties with other IP communities in the country.
He would appear in rallies, public consultations, TV news programs and talk shows, and many more speaking engagements where his services he rendered with real gusto. His family and friends in Nabuclod would hear about Ka Nelson's appearance on national TV, and they would know he was wielding the Filipino people's unity.
Katribu did not make it to Congress and Ka Nelson decided to go home despite the threats, to reunite with kin and family.
On his final days, he opted to be a breadwinner for Maring and their two sons, aged 15 and 13, who are still in school. He produced nose flutes from a variety of small bamboo and sold these in the vicinity of the Clark eco-tourism zone in Angeles, Pampanga.
Sometimes he would leave his home in the Mabalacat resettlement site for Pinatubo disaster survivors to sell his nose flutes elsewhere. One time he went with 40 other Aeta vendors to Lucban, Quezon during the last staging of the Pahiyas Festival.
Maring would only say he was hit on the road by a motor-riding man on July 20, while on his way home. Ka Nelson was then on his bicycle headed for home as he had always done everytime he went to sell his flutes.
A victim of a hit-and-run incident, Ka Nelson survived a cracked skull until July 27. Maring would systematically recant his last seven days in the hospital with no more tears. She would only be teary eyed mentioning her teen-aged sons who lost a father and a breadwinner.
As the tribute to Ka Nelson reeled on, Maring would occasionally stoop down and wipe her eyes as if to clear them so that she could have a better view of the video documentaries that several groups in Central Luzon, Cordillera and Metro Manila prepared.
Several folks filled the yard on which Ka Nelson's remains would be buried on August 4. They would often clap in unison as speakers recalled how Ka Nelson unified several Aeta tribes.
Oftentimes, it is but wise to remember a person while he was alive. The manner of his death becomes immaterial, however fishy the cause of death may be, knowing how tall he stood when he was alive.
In his coffin lies a very handsome Ka Nelson, his face no longer the almost perfect round that it was on TV. His features remain those that one would fondly remember him by. This is one body that is not too morbid to look at but Ka Nelson shall always be remembered fondly as the staunch Aeta leader often seen in his native bahag displaying with pride his short and stout physique, and black and curly locks. Lyn V. Ramo