In 2016, the Philippines hosted the Universal Language Initiative, which is meant to promote the use of universal language in Filipino communities.
The initiative aimed to bring together local languages, cultural, and linguistic groups to promote and strengthen local languages.
Since then, the initiative has been under intense pressure by Duterte and other Philippine leaders who have threatened to use it as a tool to suppress the use and development of local languages like Tagalog, Pangasinan, Pampanga, and the language of the indigenous people.
The Manila-based nonprofit Global Alliance for the Advancement of Language, which helped organize the Philippine language exchange, said that in 2017, it received approximately 200 requests from Filipino communities seeking to participate in the initiative, according to the Inquirer.
The Philippines is home to around 100 million indigenous people, most of whom speak Tagalog and Pangalan dialects of the languages.
The Tagalog language was first established as a separate language by the British colonialists who brought Filipino to the British Isles in the 17th century.
Since the 1940s, however, Tagalog has become widely spoken in the Philippines and is spoken as an official language in many institutions and government buildings, including the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine Consulate in Singapore, and many state agencies.
While some Filipino communities have begun to use Tagalog as a medium of communication, many others are still not fluent in it.
The Universal Language Institute was founded in 2014 by the Philippine Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to promote Tagalog in the country.
The organization says it supports more than 400 Tagalog schools, and provides training in Tagalog at government schools, colleges, universities, and technical institutes, among other institutions.
The institute also hosts an annual Tagalog-language festival in which Tagalog speakers gather for informal, informal language exchanges.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has warned Filipino communities not to use the universal language as a way to prevent them from speaking Tagalog.
A report by the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) found that the Philippine government does not use Tagalian language as an acceptable medium of social communication, and that Tagalog is used as a political weapon to suppress Tagalog communities and their rights.
But Tagalogs community leaders say they are not worried about the PNP’s concerns.
“We understand and are fully aware of their concerns and that they are targeting us and we are fully cognizant of it, because we understand their concerns, too,” said Maria Risig, president of the Tagalog National Association of Manila (TNA), which represents more than 10,000 Tagalog villages.
“What bothers us is that the government is not respecting our rights, as a community.
We are in a state of crisis.
The government has been using us as tools to intimidate, and we do not want that.
They are threatening us.”
A Tagalog native who spoke to Al Jazeera, whose mother is also a native Tagalog speaker, said she hopes the initiative will help build trust in Tagalian communities.
“I am sure that in the future Tagalog will be the language we all speak,” said the native, who requested to remain anonymous.
“If we are able to use this opportunity to strengthen our families, communities, and society, that will be a good thing.
We cannot give up our language.
The only thing we can do is continue to use our language, and learn how to be Tagalog citizens.
We must continue to fight against this,” she added.
“For me, Tagalian is my own language, but I also know it is the language I was taught.
We have been through a lot in the last couple of decades, so it is not easy for me to be bilingual.
I am not an illiterate native, but as I am bilingual, I cannot learn Tagalian as my mother tongue.
I also do not know how to use other language.
I do not have any experience in education, and I am in school because of my mother.”