Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Preserving the Traditional Igorot's Weaving Culture
A tourist should not leave Baguio city without first paying a visit to the Easter Weaving Room, Inc. (EWR Inc.) that was established since 1908. Unlike other weaving workshops in the Philippines, Easter Weaving Room is open to the public for visits from 8am - 5pm. Tourists who pay a visit to this centre will gain an insight to the process of making weaving products. EWR Inc.'s mission is to uphold the traditional method of weaving using manual looms instead of machines in order to maintain the sense of authenticity. Anne Hargreave, a missionary academic of Easter School unleashed the amazing weaving skills of female students who hailed from Mt. Province by incorporating the weaving curriculum into Home Economics.
Due to the use of traditional weaving methods, EWR Inc. faces obstacles in meeting the demands from customers and business partners because their factory cannot churn out mass productions. In addition, the cotton farming industry in the Philippines is non-existent therefore suppliers in Manila have to import raw cotton in order to manufacture threads for weaving. These threads are then transported to Easter Weaving Room in Baguio City. Due to the distance and the seasonal complications, many tourists choose not to visit Baguio and thus business prospects are affected as a result. Despite these challenges, EWR Inc. still continues to preserve the Cordillera culture, particularly the weaving heritage, by serving as a mechanism to market native handicrafts as well as establishing a sanctuary for the enhancement of indigenous Igorot skills. This corporation even exports goods to America, Australia, Europe, Japan, New Zealand and Canada.
The making of a final product entails an incredibly patient and meticulous worker. First of all, the primary step of weaving is warping. The warping machine serves as a set of lengthwise yarns through which the weft is woven. Each individual warp thread in a fabric is vital to produce threads. The weft is the yarn that is woven back and forth through the warp to make cloth. Thereon, winding is conducted by 2 workers as a process of thickening fine threads. During the threading process, each line of thread is inserted into individual holes followed by skilful weaving techniques in order to produce materials for sewing end products. These include place mats, shawls, mufflers, scarves, neckties, coats, books, bags, belts and such.
As I walked around the workshop, I interviewed workers to find out whether they have been paid reasonably. All workers have a day off based on duty rotation throughout the week. They work from 8am - 5pm. Lunch time is at noon. However, most of them push themselves to produce as many weaving materials as possible because time is money. For every material they manage to churn out, the workers are paid by final amount of completed products. Therefore, salaries among workers vary depending on how capable they are in being productive. An average monthly pay check never goes below 2200 pesos. According to Elena, a 58-year-old warping worker, she believed that as long as Filipinos work hard, they should be able to make a living. With all the pressing labour exploitation controversies upon multinational fashion corporations like Arcadia that owns fashion stores like Topshop and Ms Selfridge, at least Easter Weaving Room Incorporation is doing Cordillera's indigenous weaving traditions proud. Not only do they promote authentic weaving techniques but they also exercise corporate social responsibility by not exploiting means of labour.
By Jasmine Chew