Easter Weaving Room, Inc.
The Easter School was built during the Easter Week of 1906 by the Episcopalians to educate the Igorots. The first students were eight young Bontoc boys who literally hiked from their hometown to gain the privilege of education.
Two years later, the Easter Weaving Room was established through Deaconess Anne Hargreaves who decided to bring the Igorot girls together to have Home Economics class so they may earn a living and at the same time to preserve the Igorot style of weaving but wanted them to make products other than tapis and g-strings. Not surprisingly, the first products were table runners, placemats and priest stoles.
In time, EWR became popular tourist attraction in the 1930s.Then World War II came and the factory was bombed.
The room was in shambles in 1948. All the weaving looms were burned and destroyed until someone discovered a box of yarn in the rubble. The weavers decided to start from these threads with the looms that the boys made.
Easter Weaving Room was able to grow again through the insistence of succeeding directors.
In 1997 with Ms Virginia Doligas, manager up to present, EWRI was able to expand with more weavers in the huge room below the store. They also have more than 100 different styles of placemats and product innovations yet stayed true with Hargreaves’ vision to preserve the traditional Igorot designs. Aside from maintaining quality, part of the mission is to educate people on the beauty and richness of indigenous culture through weaving.
More than 40 percent of its products are napped up by foreign buyers from the United States, Japan, Australia, Canada and Saudi Arabia.
They were a very successful business until the meningococcemia scare in 2004 which slumped EWRI’s sales. Even if their local and overseas marketing were doing well, about 60 percent of their sales still depend on walk-in customers. With few tourists coming, Ms Doligas and her crew decided to come up with a new tact which is to strengthen the export business.
EWRI now exports regularly to Australia and the US and occasionally to Japan, Canada and several European countries. Interestingly, the company is one of the biggest suppliers of priest stoles and church vestments in the US, not only among Episcopalian but also with the Catholic churches as well.
EWRI also revived its local markets. They incorporated new materials like jute and raffia; they accommodated fabrics and handicrafts all over the country like shell crafts, coconut crafts and other souvenirs. The Tyler line who was named after a French designer who came to the shop and sketched a design for the table runners is also one of the more popular designs. Product development and presentation were also keys in their success.
In fact, the main reason why they remain popular is that people love watching the weavers weave. The weavers, mostly of Bontoc Mountain Province origin, are also accommodating and would tell you their stories. And lastly, EWRI has a strong ally up there. Maybe that’s why their lifeline never wavered even if it still lives by the thread.
Today, Easter Weaving Room, Inc. is a thriving manufacturer, retailer and exporter of indigenous textiles. EWRI continues to preserve the Cordillera culture, particularly the weaving heritage, by serving as an instrument in promoting native handicrafts and providing a home for the enhancement of indigenous Igorot skills.