Dedma means "I don't care"

Evelyn Miranda-Feliciano

Dedma -- Number 7 in a series of articles about Tagalog Words and everything Tagalog.

A Judge in the Court of Appeals used dedma in the course of an investigation. For using this word, he was chastised by a three-member panel assigned by the Supreme Court to look into the “unusual activities" in the Court of Appeals. Why? The word dedma is too pedestrian, too colloquial. As a respected Justice he is expected to use more courtly and proper expressions in such a formal, serious setting.

Taking a closer look at the word, dedma sounds murderous. It seems to connote matricide, because in Tagalog it sounds like it wishes someone’s mother dead (dead-ma, "dead mother"). So what does it really mean?

Dedma means wala lang ("like nothing" or "whatever").

  • “Nagtatatalak ang biyenan ko kaninang umaga. Dinedma ko siya." My mother-in-law was nagging this morning. I acted as if I wasn't hearing her.
  • “Matrapik masyado, pero  dinedma ko na lang." Traffic was too long, so I just ignored it.

To be dedma (adj.; adv.) is to ignore a person or a situation in order to escape, avoid getting hurt or to deny a confrontation

To ignore or shrug a bad situation away seems a healthy defense mechanism to keep one’s sanity. In the midst of trying conditions this response acts as a shield or box that keeps a system going, and the people functioning, at least, for the time being. How else to remain resilient amid the constant natural and man-made trials faced by the Filipino people? Take the long brownouts in Mindanao, the floods and typhoons in many regions of the archipelago, the endless political circus, the slow justice system, the high rate of crime and poverty, the never ending battle between rebels and government forces. To be dedma is to kind of numb oneself against all the pain brought about by these difficulties. 

But dedma may also suggest shameless disregard for others. Filipinos are well-known for their family oriented values. But sometimes, families are too inclusive, and helping families do not extend beyond the clan with all goodwill and charity not making any positive dent in society. In many areas, so called family dynasties run a town - dedma lang - shamelessly.

There should be more hope when it comes to individuals. But extreme needs will always make room for greed. When a fresh supply of goods arrives in a refugee camp, everybody turns each to his own, uncaring (dedma) as they scramble up the truck to grab whatever they can for their family. Or when passengers elbow each other out, fighting for space inside the Light Rail Transit, dedmahan na lang. It doesn't matter who gets hurt in the process.

In Philippine society where churches and saints of all nature and sizes abound, it sometimes seems as if people are indifferent (dedma) about the real meaning of Christianity. This indifference is reflected in the saying "bahala na", as if fate is going to take care of everything, even the consequence of unwise actions.

Yet almost everybody has his version of God.  It is just that unless a disaster happens, people would keep God in the sidelines, dinidedma. In the course of their trial, there will be a "Nasa-Diyos-ang-awa, nasa-tao ang-gawa phase", then in the acceptance phase, they will say, "Bahala na ang Diyos". ("Bahala na" roughly means "Let fate bring whatever fate will bring," but when it is "Bahala na ang Diyos," it means, "Let God bring whatever God will bring.")

The truth is, however we run away from God, merely profess him, pretend to know him or ignore him, He will always love us. God does not respond with an indifferent shrug of the shoulders. Hindi niya tayo dededmahin.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-31). 

dedma lang, if the Pila-pila on the sidewalk is long