Children from the 60s are all too familiar with the kulambo, or anti-mosquito nets, as they symbolize their parents’ efforts to keep them safe from sickness.

Today, the modest kulambo has transformed into a symbol of hope in the battle against malaria.

Mosquitos have been called one of the most dangerous insects in the world, spreading some of the world’s most prevalent and destructive diseases today. Malaria is one such infection, affecting tens of thousands of Filipinos, but we have since bitten back.

To celebrate the two decades of milestones that mark the fight against malaria, resulting in a 90 percent reduction of reported cases, renowned fine artist Leeroy New has created “Fortress,” an installation that creatively weaves together used kulambo or anti-mosquito nets, collected from malaria-affected places.

“It made sense to transform and bring new life to these pre-used medicated mosquito nets, originally intended to act as protective shields against disease-carrying mosquitoes, into an immersive and ethereal fortress-like structure complete with pointed spires that attempts to represent the substantial preventive effect it has made on the fight against malaria,” said New as he described his inspiration for the piece.

Commissioned by Shell Companies in the Philippines (SCiP), the artwork aims to symbolize the company’s drive to eliminate malaria. New explained that it also represents the constant struggle to maintain control over threats to humanity’s well-being, be it physical, mental, or emotional. 

“Also, meandering about the floating castle is what appears to be a serpentine like form made from the same mesh material that resembles the threatening beasts from fantasy stories that always aim to invade or destroy,” said New. 

The piece will be placed in front of Daiichi Properties’ The Finance Center in Bonifacio Global City until the end of April.

“This artwork is the symbol of the collaborative effort made to eliminate the malaria infection from the Philippines,” said New. “It serves as a concrete example that we can fight against this deadly infection and win.”

Through the combined effort of Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. (PSFI), the Department of Health (DOH), and local government units across the nation, malaria cases have dropped from over 50,000 in Palawan alone in 1999, to less than 5,000 in 2018.

“In the common Filipino household, the kulambo symbolizes the ultimate protection against mosquitoes,” said New as he described his inspiration for the piece. “An entire family can seek protection under the kulambo and spend the night, huddled but safe.”

Meanwhile,PSFI Executive Director Sebastian Quiñones Jr. noted the challenge in helping indigenous peoples fight malaria because their nomadic nature makes it difficult to monitor their treatment.

In order to tackle the challenging circumstances, PSFI sends regular volunteer expeditions into the mountains, and the Foundation has hired anthropologists to study the groups in order to develop non-disruptive methods for providing aid.

“At Shell, we believe in being a good neighbor, so we do not wish to disrupt their way of life,” said Quiñones. “Our goal is to promote the well-being of our communities, forge strong partnerships with various sectors, and make all of these initiatives sustainable, so that our legacy and mission will continue with our respective communities.”

The program received another grant for 2018-2020 to tackle the last four highly endemic provinces, which has made Quiñones confident that the Philippines can achieve its goal for the country to be malaria-free by 2030. These are the provinces of Palawan, Sulu, Occidental Mindoro and Sultan Kudarat.

For the last 105 years of its operations in the country, Pilipinas Shell, with the Department of Health, has remained committed to helping not just the communities that it serves, but all communities throughout the nation. By combating dangerous diseases such as malaria, the company aims to make the future safer for all Filipinos.

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