KUNE COMES OF AGE, Anon
Barely had the sun’s rays peeped from behind the
hills than he was chopping wood in the front yard. He
was a dark, curly-haired, good-looking boy, no more
than thirteen years old, but already as tall as the mango
tree that grew beside their batalan. He had planted the
seed almost two years ago, one dull afternoon when he
had sneaked into their neighbor’s yard and helped
himself to the ripening mangoes within his reach.
But today, there was no hint of that naughty boy.
The beads of perspiration starting to form on his bare
back spoke of serious work, as did the rising pile of
firewood nearby. He had already milked the carabao at
the back of the house, and watered his Inang’s
eggplants and tomato plants in the backyard. By six
o’clock, at the tooting of the siren at the ice plant, he
had finished the pile of wood by his side. His mother
would have wood for one whole week!
Kune raised his arm to wipe the perspiration from
his brow. He felt good. The early morning work had
invigorated him. He felt that he was ready for anything.
Or anyone. He flexed his arms, and looked at his
growing muscles with pride.
“Kune, why are you up so early?”
Kune whirled around, startled. “Tatang! I didn’t
know you’re up. I could not sleep anymore. So, I got
He saw his father’s eyes widen at the neat pile of
firewood stacked beside the mango tree. Tsk, he
thought to himself, now he’d be asking many questions.
But MangSiso merely stood by the window and stared at
Kune in frank wonder.
“Did you finish the assignment you were doing last
night?” he asked instead, as Kune went to the batalan to
wash his feet.
“Well, Tatang, that’s another reason why I got up
early. I would like to finish it.”
Kune excused himself, grabbing the notebook he
had left on the kitchen table. Then, thumbing through it,
he walked toward the front window, well away from his
father. He didn’t want his father asking him questions.
How was he to explain, anyway? His father may not
Even AlingSianang immediately noticed the change
“Uy, you’re so well-groomed today,” she remarked
as, after breakfast, Kune put on his newly-cleaned
rubber shoes. He had on his neatly pressed maong, the
only decent pants he had. To match it, he wore an
immaculately white T-shirt. “Is there a convocation?”
Kune scratched his head. Why did everybody have
to ask questions! “Not today, Inang,” he explained. “It is
Monday, and I would like to wear my best pants to start
the week right. Inang, for the first time, I am enjoying
“That’s good, Cornelio. I am happy to know that
you are paying more attention to your schoolwork now.
Siso, did you hear that? Your son seems to be coming of
age at last.”
“Yes, Sianang. I really wonder at the big change in
him. May his industry continue for a long time.”
MangSiso patted Kune on the back. He turned to
AlingSianang, “Our son is growing up, Sianang.”
AlingSianang nodded her head and smiled.
It was a beautiful Monday morning. There was no
hint of rain in the sky, and a slight June breeze played
with the bamboo clumps by the roadside. The moment
Kune stepped out of their gate, he began to walk fast.
Not a moment to lose! He felt the two one-peso coins in
his pocket and smiled. Today was the day!
In school, Kune outdid himself. Even Miss Pablo, his
first period teacher, could not believe her ears. Kune
was giving one accurate answer after another.
“Cornelio, you keep up this good work and you’ll
easily make it to the honor list.”
Kune smiled self-consciously at Miss Pablo’s praise.
His classmates were all looking at him. He felt the blood
rush up to his face. He felt uncomfortable at all the
attention he was getting.
But within him, he was singing. His plan was
working out well. He gave Adela a furtive glance. She
was sitting three chairs away, a slightly built girl whose
soft hair hung loose up to her shoulders. Kune tried to
see from the corner of his eye if she was looking at him.
She was! And smiling too! Kune could feel his heart
beating trip hammer blows. She must like me, the
thought went over and over in is head.
During recess, Kune looked for Adela. He felt warm
all over, but his steps were light and springy. He must
talk to her now. He was a man now, wasn’t he? Hadn’t
his mother just said that he was coming of age?
But why do I feel so unsure of myself? He kept
asking himself. He just couldn’t get his words in the right
shape when Adela was near. Again and again, he would
practice his little piece, but each time, he got so tongue-
tied that all he could do was stare and smile.
He saw Adela sitting alone under the shade of a
bent mango tree. Now was the chance to speak with
her. Kune took a deep breath, and readied his piece. He
would ask her to have halo-halo with him.
“Hi, Adela.” “It’s certainly very hot today, isn’t it?”
Adela’s eyes rounded and she giggled. She looked
up at Cornelio, waiting for him to go on. But Kune felt
rooted to the spot, all his well-rehearsed words gone.
“By the way, congratulations.” Adela broke the
silence between them.
“For what?” Kune finally got his voice back.
“For your good work in Social Studies!” Adela
smiled. How pretty she is, Kune thought helplessly.
What does she think of me now!
Adela went on “Imagine, three accurate answers in
a row! Everybody in class admires you, even…Miss
Suddenly, Kune came back to life. He took
advantage of Adela’s hesitation. “I thought you were
going to say, even I,” he quipped. He wasn’t going to
lose a chance like that, even if he couldn’t get his
invitation in the right shape.
“Who, me? Well, I…Oh, never mind, forget it,”
Adela evasively answered, blushing. To change the
subject, she remarked, “It’s really hot, isn’t it?”
This time Kune didn’t waste any more time. “How
about a halo-halo then? It will refresh us. Besides, the
store is just across the street. Come. Dela.”
Dela didn’t say a word. “Come, join me, please,”
Dela stood up. She gathered her books with one
hand and smoothened her skirt with the other. Kune
was almost behind himself with joy. I did it, he silently
exulted, taking in one deep, satisfied breath. Then,
before he could say anything more Adela was gone.
Kune was stupefied. He stared at the girl’s receding
figure, not knowing what to do. He wanted to run after
her, but he could not move.
“Dela!” He called Adela back, but she just kept on
running. I don’t get it, Kune muttered to himself, I just
don’t get it.
That night, Kune spent long hours writing his first
love letter. He was indeed, slowly coming of age.