Ibong Adarna

nbs ibong adarna
The Ibong Adarna continues to fire up our imagination from each generation and has been a staple piece for various media entertainment.

Welcome to this post about Ibong Adarna! This corrido is another Spanish period contribution to our Philippine literary pieces. We will study this literary masterpiece again and in the process, rekindle our interest, imagination and pride to have this unique masterpiece to be called truly our own. A true testament to the richness and diversity of our Philippine literary pieces. So, hang on, and let us enjoy the beauty of Ibong Adarna once again!

Historical background

Ibong Adarna is an epic about a legendary bird which is said to be found in Mt. Tabor, where it perches on the shimmering Piedras Platas at night (Piedras Platas is Spanish for silver stones). During the daytime, the bird goes off somewhere but it comes back at night to rest, and it sings beautifully before it sleeps.

The Ibong Adarna is a narrative poem with the full title, “Corrido at Buhay na Pinagdaanan nang Tatlong Principeng Magcacapatid na Anac nang Haring Fernando at nang Reina Valeriana sa Cahariang Berbania.” (Corrido and the Life of Three Princes, sons of King Fernando and Queen Valeria from the kingdom of Berbania). The poem has no exact date of origin and its author remains unknown. However, it is believed that the poem was composed by Huseng Sisiw,” pseudonym of Jose Corazon de la Cruz, dubbed as the “King of Tagalog Poets.”

It contains 1,034 stanzas (8 syllables per line, 4 lines per stanza), and it is a Corrido or metrical romance that involves the struggles of a heroic character. It tells of the adventures and magical powers, the romance and love, the courage and piety, and the treachery and betrayal of highborn characters.

At present, Ibong Adarna is an important Filipino literary classic that is being studied in secondary school (in the first year) in the Philippines, in accordance with the curriculum set by the Commission on Higher Education.


Major characters:

  • Ibong Adarna (Adarna bird). An enchantress bird. It has a very long fancy tail with numerous shiny metallic colors.  It knows a total of seven songs that are believed to lull anyone to sleep as well as cure any type of afflictions and it changes its feathers into more colorful hues and shades after each song.  After the last song, it excretes waste, then finally, sleeps with its eyes wide open.  When Adarna bird is sad, it looks very ugly and hopeless.  It is believed that its droppings can turn any living things into stone.
  • King Fernando. Great ruler of Berbania kingdom.
  • Queen Valeriana. Faithful wife of King Fernando and a loving mother to her three sons : Don Pedro, Don Diego and Don Juan.
  • Don Pedro. Eldest son of the King and Queen.  He is a deceitful man, very envious and greedy of power.
  • Don Diego. The second son, he does not have his own decision.  He follows whatever his older brother, Don Pedro tells him to do.
  • Don Juan. The youngest of the siblings. He is a man of integrity and compassion. These good qualities makes him the King’s favorite child

Minor characters:

  • Old leper. The old man who advices Don Juan to seek for the hermit’s cottage and ask for an advise on how to get the Adarna bird without any harm.

  • Hermit. The old man who advices Don Juan on how to successfully get the Adarna bird.
  • Princess Juana. The princess whom Don Juan rescues from a giant who holds her in custody.
  • Princess Leonora. Younger sibling of Princess Juana.  Don Juan also rescues her from the serpent with seven heads.
  • King Salermo. Ruler of the kingdom of De los Crystal with black magical powers.  He is the father of Doña Maria Blanca.
  • Princess Maria Blanca. The princess of De los Crystal kingdom.  She has white magical powers, which is greater than her father, King Salermo.

Ibong Adarna full story

Once upon a time there ruled in the Kingdom of Berbania King Ferdinand and his Queen-wife Valeriana. These monarchs had three sons: Don Pedro, Don Diego and Don Juan. The king loved Don Juan so much that when one night he dreamed that his son was strangulated by two men and then thrown into a deep pit, he became ill of a malady which no physician in the whole kingdom could cure. After sometime, however, a learned physician came and told the King that there was but one remedy to his illness and that was a certain bird called Ibong Adarna. This bird, according to this medicine-man, possessed many colors and sang so sweetly that its songs would easily cure the king’s malady. But catching this bird was not only difficult and tedious but also deadly dangerous and long. It might mean the death of the ones catching it. Besides, the bird could be found only at night and only at a certain tree, known as Piedras Platas, in Mount Tabor (Asia Minor).

Since no physician could prescribe an easier and less dangerous cure, the king, who was gradually sinking in health, determined to follow this “prescription”. He sent his eldest son, Don Pedro, on that dangerous mission. In obedience to his father, Don Pedro travelled to the East, crossing mountains, rivers, valleys, plains and other topographical features that separated Berbania from Mount Tabor. At last, after several months of travel, he reached the place of his destination. He saw the tree, the Piedras Platas, which, because of its singular beauty, he could easily distinguish from others. At the end of the day he beheld with his own eyes a multitude of birds of varying species, from the smallest to the biggest, from the most beautiful to the most ugly; these flew over his head, alighted at the branches of the many trees near the Piedras Platas, sang their songs and then went to sleep. But wonder of all wonders! Why was it that in spite of the beauty of the Piedras Platas and the thousands of birds that came, not one of them alighted and rested at that beautiful tree? This was the question that vexed him most. He waited; still no bird came. He remembered very well that his father’s physician had said that the adarna alighted and rested only in the Piedras Platas. Impatience crept into his heart. He was tired because of his long journey. He thought that he must have been mistaken. That tree was not the Piedras Platas. He thought of continuing his journey the following morning. So, underneath that tree he reclined and was soon fast asleep.

Not much later a bird of wondrous beauty came and alighted at the very tree beneath which lay Don Pedro in perfect repose. This bird was the Ibong Adarna itself. It fluttered its wings and tail, and each time the fluttering was done, its colors changed for the better. Then it sang its melodious songs in sweet succession, and at the end of the seventh and last song, as was its wont, it defecated. Unfortunately that defecation fell on the sleeping prince and turned him into stone.

For one whole year the king waited for the return of his son, but of course that son could not return. Then the king commanded Don Diego to undertake the same mission. This prince reached the same place, after much hardship and privations. Like his elder brother, he noticed that tree of singular brilliance. Underneath that tree he awaited the coming of the bird. Being more patient than Don Pedro, he was able to see the coming of the Ibong Adarna. In this case he was more successful than his brother. But did he succeed in catching the bird? No! For while he was there watching the bird to sleep, it began to sing its sweet songs, and these songs were so sweet indeed that they lulled him to sleep. And when, later, the bird threw his defecation, that fell unfortunately on the body of Don Diego, who like his elder brother, was turned into stone.

Meanwhile, the king and the entire court waited for the return of the envoys. Days rolled into weeks; weeks, into months; and months, into years, but neither Don Pedro nor Don Diego came. The king’s ailment was getting worse. Despite this, however, he did not want to send Don Juan, his dearest son, away on that mission of catching the Ibong Adarna. For the departure itself alone would cause his death. He would rather live a sick man throughout his life than to part from his youngest son.

But Don Juan always looked to the day when his father would send him on that errand. And when after three years after the departure of Don Pedro, his father had not called him yet to undertake the same mission, he came to ask his father to bless him, signifying his intention of getting the bird himself. King Fernando hesitated, but Don Juan was earnest and uncompromising. He even threatened to leave the kingdom unnoticed in order to get that bird, if his father would not give him the benediction he was asking. Under these circumstances, the king was forced to send away Don Juan.

In the course of his travel, Don Juan met a leper, who, impressed by the youth’s character and demeanor, gave him help to get what he desired. This same leper appeared to have been the hermit who was certainly responsible for the success of Don Juan’s mission. This hermit lived in a cottage not very far away from the tree of Piedras Platas. As told by the leper, Don Juan went to this cottage. This hermit gave the young prince instructions in how to get the bird. These instructions included the cutting the palm of his hand and distilling into these wounds the juice of the seven lemons which the hermit gave to the young man to prevent the possible drowsiness that might be caused by the melodies of the bird. He was also told by the old man to evade the defecation which the bird would make after it had sung its seven, sweet melodies. Then he also provided the young man with the chain of gold by which the bird would be tied.

Following the instructions of the hermit, Don Juan successfully caught the bird. This hermit gave him also a golden cage to house the bird. Likewise, it was through the good offices of this man that Don Juan brought back his two brothers, Don Pedro and Don Diego, to life. Happily the three brothers journeyed home, bringing with them the bird that would spell the only cure to the malady of their father.

But what a frailty of the human heart! While the three were on their way home, envious that Juan was able to do what they had not done, Don Pedro and Don Diego conspired between them to do away with Don Juan. Don Pedro suggested that they should put Juan to death, but the other, being of the soberer heart, merely wanted to disable him. This latter suggestion was the one carried out. So they beat Juan to unconsciousness, and carrying with them the Ibong Adarna, they left Juan on the middle of the road, and proceeded on their way home. Arriving home, the two brothers presented the bird to their father, but it did no appreciable good to the father in as much as the bird would not sing.

Meanwhile, Don Juan came to his own self. But he was too weak to walk. His prayers to God, which he presently said, seemed to have been answered by the fortunate passing of an old man who upon being informed of what had happened cured Don Juan. Then this young man went back to his country, Berbania. When he arrived at the palace, the Ibong Adarna entirely changed its aspect. This time it became happy and beautiful. It sang its sweet songs, changed its colors, and told the story of the three brothers.

In furious anger, the king decreed the death of Don Pedro and Don Diego, but again, Don Juan saved them. The latter was able to ask pardon for their acts. The king was now rapidly recovering from his failing health. Meanwhile, these three sons were ordered to watch the bird at night, by turns. And so envious were the two elder brothers of the favors lavished by the king on Don Juan that again they conspired against him. One night, during his turn in watching the Ibong Adarna, the two brothers came stealthily and let the bird loose. Upon discovering its loss, and bethinking of the wrath of his father, Juan hurriedly went away.

When King Fernando learned of the loss of the bird and of the disappearance of his favorite son, he sent the two elder brothers to look for them. They met Don Juan in Armenia, and because they could not find the bird, they planned to stay there.

One day, while they were thus living in that far away country, they saw an interesting pit and a long rope near its mouth. So curious were they, that in unison they showed their intention of finding out what was in it. But common agreement Don Pedro was first lowered by the aid of the rope, but hardly was he a meter or so below the surface when he ordered his brothers to pull him up. The same was true with Don Diego. But Juan had a very different story.

His courage and determination enabled him to be lowered to the very bottom of that pit, where he saw two enchanted palaces wherein dwelt two lovely princesses, whose names were Doña Juana and Doña Leonora. Love-lorn and discontented with their lives there, these maidens easily succumbed to Don Juan’s offer of love. So they decided to go with him. But before that could be done, it was necessary for Don Juan to wage two terrific fights victoriously; the first against a giant who was taking care of Doña Juana, and the second against a seven-headed serpent who was taking care of the other. Then the three came to the surface of the earth. But no sooner had they arrived there than Leonora remembered that she had forgotten her diamond ring in her palace, and asked Juan to get it.

In this instance, the greed of Cain once more manifested itself. While he was being lowered at the rope by Don Pedro and Don Diego, whom he had saved once from death and resuscitated too from the grave, Pedro cut the rope, and thus practically threw him to death. Leonor who loved Don Juan so dearly was about to leap into the pit, but she was prevented by Don Pedro from doing so. Unable to personally help her lover, because of the intervention of Don Pedro, Leonora threw her lamb-talisman into the pit with the instructions to help Don Juan in his necessities. The four – Don Pedro, Don Diego, Doña Juana and Doña Leonora – soon departed for Berbania, where immediately Don Diego and Doña Juana were solemnly married. As for the other two, Doña Leonora asked his Majesty, King Fernando, to give her a seven-year grave and seclusion to enable her to do her promised penance. The truth was that she wanted to wait for Don Juan.

Meanwhile, let us see the fate of the latter. Through the help of the lamb-talisman which Doña Leonora threw into the well, Don Juan was cured of his ailments. His dislocations, sprains, and wounds were cured by the talisman. It was also this talisman that brought a quantity of water from the Jordan River that restored the vigor of Don Juan. Then when the prince had already found the diamond ring of Leonora, he went back to the surface of the earth, again with the help of the talisman. Then, deciding to go back to Berbania, he set out for that long journey. Day after day he set toward that kingdom of Berbania which was always dear to him.

One sultry afternoon, feeling tired, he stopped under a big shady tree to rest; and in a short time he was soon asleep. While the prince was thus asleep, the adarna arrived, and sang its beautiful melodies. Then it called and awakened him and told him of the existence of the most beautiful woman in the world. This woman, whose name was Doña Maria, was the eldest daughter of King Salermo of the kingdom of the Crystals, which was located near the place of the rising sun. Having been told by the adarna that Doña Maria would bring honor to the kingdom of Berbania, Don Juan forgot Doña Leonora and decided to find the Kingdom of Crystals and win the heart of the princess.

For three full years he wandered in search of that country, but he could not locate it. Nevertheless his determination remained unchanged. Then he met several hermits. But neither one of them could tell him of that kingdom, although all of them tried to help him. At last one of them called an assembly of the animals of all classes, but not one of these animals was able to tell him of that kingdom. When all the fowls and the birds had been called, the hermit found one who could help Don Juan. This was the eagle, the king of all the birds.

Don Juan flew with the eagle to the land of the Crystals and after thirty days of continuous flying, they reached it. Before the eagle left the prince, it informed him of the existence of crystal baths where the three princesses bathed every afternoon at four. In a hidden bush near these baths the prince waited and at four in that afternoon, he saw the coming of three beautiful princesses, who immediately took off their dresses and plunged into the pools, Don Juan stealthily crept to the place where the most beautiful of the three had left her dress and stole it.

When the princess – Doña Maria was the name – discovered the outrage, her anger knew no bounds. Then, from his hiding place, Don Juan sallied forth and bent down on his knees and begged forgiveness and poured forth with all the vehemence under his command the sincerity of his love to her. Pleased by his words and actions, Doña Maria also fell in love with him; but she advised him to beware of the cunning of her father lest he be turned also into stone as the others who came to woo her and her sisters. Then she pointed the stones that surrounded the palace, and told him that they were formerly princes, dukes, counts, knights, etc. Then she told him what he was to do in case her father would call him. She also promised him that whatever her father would demand of him, she was the one who would perform the task.

On being informed of the presence of the bold prince, the king sent for him. Unhesitating, Don Juan presented himself and did what was bidden, but he was always careful and conscious of the advice given him by Doña Maria. As was his wont, the king demanded of the young prince to perform a series of tests both gigantic and impossible of accomplishment to ordinary mortals.

The first was to plant two basketfuls of wheat-grains on the top of a nearby mountain after the same had been leveled and to produce of these sown wheat-grains bread sufficient to be taken in the breakfast by the king and his court the following morning. The second was to gather in one night a dozen negroes and negreses let loose by the king in the sea and place them in a big bottle. The third humanly impossible task was to remove in one night a distant mountain to a place just outside the king’s palace so that the following morning when the king looked at the window he would feel the cool breeze blowing from that mountain. The fourth task demanded of Don Juan was to transfer that mountain to the midst of the sea and in it construct a magnificent castle, fortified by bastions, buttresses and mounted cannons, and fortified by a number of soldiers. The fifth ordeal given to the prince was the recovery in one night of a ring which the king would drop into the sea. To all these tests, Don Juan submitted himself and emerged successful. But his success was of course really due to Doña Maria who personally performed the humanly impossible tasks, with the aid of her superb-talisman, the white magic. The last test proved to be the extraordinarily difficult, for in order to look for the royal ring in the depths of the sea, it was necessary to cut the body of Doña Maria into innumerable pieces and then throw them into the sea as the only means of recovering the jewel.

At this instance, however, when her body was being cut into pieces, one of her fingers was dropped from the aggregate of her flesh, and on that account it was no longer recovered. In spite of the marvelous performance by the prince of the tasks imposed by the king, the latter was not pleased. This was due to two reasons. One was his unwillingness to marry off his daughter, and the second was his hurt pride for having been outdone by the prince in the supernatural powers shown by the young man. For these reasons, he still imposed another arduous task, which Doña Maria considered the most dangerous and most delicate. This was the taming of a horse, which was supposed to be no other than the king himself transformed.

But Doña Maria, who was possessed of a talisman superior to that of her father, was still able to tame that horse and save her dear prince from veritable death. The following day, as a result of his terrible adventure, the king was completely tired and exhausted. Calling the prince to his bedside, he allowed him to choose one of his three daughters as wife, without, however permitting him to see them in person. He merely told his daughters to insert one of their fingers into the holes provided in their respective chambers, and from these fingers Don Juan was to choose his bride. Doña Maria was easily identified, however, by the prince because she inserted her finger that was cut while they had their adventures in the sea.

The monarch appeared to have been satisfied, but he was still thinking of things to deceive the price. He was even planning to send the prince to England either to marry him to one of his (the king’s) sisters or to put him to death there. But Doña Maria, through her talisman, knew this. So she decided to elope with her suitor. She ordered him to direct himself to the royal stables and take the seventh horse, counting from the left, and prepare the horse for their elopement that same evening. Unfortunately, in his haste, the prince took the eighth horse.

However, no sooner were they outside the kingdom, than the king knew of their flight. So he mounted the seventh charger which was the fastest of the king’s steeds. Then followed a close race. The seventh horse proved really the faster of the two in that race. The princess knew that if they would be overtaken that would also be the undoing of her own life. So, she harnessed all her supernatural prowess. When they were about to be overtaken, she dropped one of her needles, which on touching the ground, was converted into an extensive pile of thorns that necessitated the tenacious king to go a long way round. When later he came in sight of the fugitives, the princess dropped a cake of soap which became a high filthy mountain, causing again a long delay on the part of the pursuers. The third time he came close, Doña Maria dropped a hair pin which converted the distance the fugitive lovers and the pursuing king into a wide and deep body of water, which proved too much for the king’s horse to pass. Thus ended the race with the romantic pair as the hero and heroine. Full of remorse and hatred, the king cursed his daughter so that she might be forgotten by her lover.

At last Doña Maria and Don Juan arrived at the kingdom of Berbania. Here, in a village just at the outskirt of the kingdom, they halted for a little rest. Don Juan thought that it was not proper for them to enter the kingdom unheralded much less was it befitting to have Doña Maria come without the royal and sumptuous welcome. Hence he prevailed upon the princess to tarry in the village for a while, and in the meantime he went to the kingdom alone with the intention of informing his father and the royal court of the presence of the illustrious and learned princess.

But no sooner was he in the midst of the court when he forgot everything about Doña Maria, a fact which was in accordance with the curse of her father. Princess Leonora, meanwhile, came out of her seclusion and made known to the Berbanian king her readiness to marry, not Don Pedro, however, but Don Juan, the newly arrived prince. A little surprised at first but agreeable later to this proposal for it would not greatly affect the royal line, the king ordered the big preparation for the wedding – the royal wedding of Don Juan and Doña Leonora.

Outside the kingdom, Princess Maria waited for the return of Don Juan. But the latter did not come. Through her talisman, she knew of what were taking place in the royal palace. At the day of the marriage, she therefore ordered her talisman to provide her with the most beautiful and most dignified royal garments, a royal coach drawn by eight big colored horses, with four palfreys and other paraphernalia befitting an empress of the first rank. Then she presented herself at the door of the Berbanian palace, practically inviting herself at the wedding ceremony of Don Juan and Doña Leonora

Out of respect to that majestically-looking empress who they believed came from a far-away land, the ceremony was stopped and gave her a royal reception. Once in, the guest suggested that a game be played in honor of the betrothed, and that she signified her willingness of offer a number. The number which she offered consisted of a dance and drama between a negrito and a negrita contained in a flask which she created from her talisman. In the dance, the negrita carried a whip by which at certain intervals she flogged her partner whom she called Don Juan. Dancing and conversation followed alternately, the dance accompanied by sweet music that came from no where.

In the conversation, the negrita continually reminded the fictitious Don Juan (the negrito) of the incidents of the adventures of the true Don Juan in the kingdom of the Crystals: the scene in the baths, the different tests given by the king to Don Juan, and their escape from the kingdom of Crystals to the kingdom of Berbania. And each time the negrito denied cognizance of these incidents and of Doña Maria, the negrita mercilessly flogged the negrito. But what was most strange was the fact that every time, the negrito was whipped the pain was actually felt by the true Don Juan. When still the negrito denied knowledge of even the scene at the village just at the outskirts of the Berbanian kingdom, and the true Don Juan kept his silence, the guest determined to directly punish Don Juan. At this instance, the negrito and the negrita as well as the music disappeared. Then the guest directly addressed Don Juan with the remarks that in as much as he had not recognized her, it was time for him to die because of his perfidy. She at once grabbed the flask and was about to drown the whole kingdom, when Prince Don Juan, truly repentant, began to recognize the presence of Doña Maria. Then publicly the prince announced his determination to wed the guest and not Doña Leonora.

Commotion of thought immediately reigned in the king’s mind as well as those of the other. For allowing the prince to marry Doña Maria would be an outrage on Doña Leonora. Then a battle of wits ensued. Leonora explained how her lamb-talisman saved the life of the prince so that for that reason alone he should marry her. Doña Maria argued her case as forcefully as did the former. Really both of them saved the life of Don Juan. What was to be done? To marry both would be un-Christian. But to marry one would prejudice the other. And to marry none would be an injustice. Besides, the prince was willing to marry one of them. In the midst of this confusion, the archbishop’s advice was finally sought. He voted in favor of Doña Leonora, invoking the right of priority.

But Doña Maria was determined to fight to the last to save herself. She therefore took advantage of the power of her talisman by sending all over the Berbanian kingdom an inundation that would kill all her people. Under these circumstances King Fernando and all his subjects trembled to their knees and supplicated Princess Leonora to be content with marrying Don Pedro, the eldest son of the king, a fact which this princess did for the good of all. The affair ended in a double wedding, those of Doña Maria and Don Juan, and Doña Leonora and Don Pedro. At the behest of Doña Maria heself, the Berbanian crown was given to Don Pedro and Doña Leonora. Soon Doña Maria, the heroine, and Don Juan, the hero, returned to the kingdom of Crystals where they lived and ruled gloriously ever after.


  • www.seasite.niu.edu/tagalog/ibong_adarna.htm
  • https://berberberbanya.wordpress.com/buod-ng-ibong-adarna/
  • http://www.kapitbisig.com/philippines/ibong-adarna-the-legendary-bird-of-piedras-platas-booknotes-summary-in-english_232.html

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