Legend has it that once upon a time, the Philippines was home to a magical bird whose song had the ability to cure any sickness. This bird was known as Ibong Adarna, and its story is still one of the Philippines’ most popular legends.
Like most legends, no one knows exactly the source of the story except that it started being told during the era the Philippines was conquered by the Spaniards. Growing up we learned in school that this epic poem was created by the Tagalog poet “Huseng Sisiw” (the nickname of José de la Cruz). But according to Wikipedia, there’s no confirmation.
The version I’m sharing here is the one retold by Virgilio S. Almario and illustrated by Jordan Santos for the publishing house Adarna House, its name also inspired by this legendary bird. The summary below is based on this children’s book version. For the poem’s summary, please click here.
Once upon a time, the king of Berbania suddenly fell ill. No one understood what exactly was happening to the King until a hermit came one day to tell the King’s three sons that the only way to cure their father is to capture the elusive Adarna and make it sing for the King.
The eldest decided to go first. He sought out the bird and found it, but fell victim to its song which makes its listeners sleepy. As its listeners fall asleep the Adarna circles its victims and excretes droppings, turning them to stone.
The second son followed only to encounter the same fate. The youngest son followed his brothers and meets an old leper on his way. When the leper asked for food and drink, Don Juan gave the old man all that he had left.
Suddenly, the old man seemed to brighten up, and he told Don Juan how to capture the bird. He eventually succeeded not only in capturing the bird, but also undoing the spell his brothers had fallen under. All three princes returned home with the legendary bird, who sang for the King and immediately healed him. Since then, the Adarna stayed with them and awed everyone not just with its beautiful voice, but for being the most majestic bird the kingdom had ever seen.
There’s a very high probability that the Ibong Adarna never existed, but there are some birds that do exist but are slowly disappearing. The book hopes to educate its readers by sharing more about these birds at the end of the book (in Tagalog only).
I hope that many parents are able to share the importance of protecting our endangered birds. Otherwise, all we will be left with are legends and stories of these beautiful, majestic creatures.
As retold by: Virgilio S. Almario
Illustrator: Jordan Santos
Publisher: Adarna House
Language: Tagalog & English
This book is part of my 52 Children’s Books from Asian Authors collection. Discover more children’s books by Asian authors by clicking this photo below:
Ibong Adarna on Wikipedia