The exact title of this narrative poem is Ibong Adarna, Corrido at Buhay na Pinagdaanan nang Tatlong Principeng Magcacapatid na Anac ñg Haring Fernando at ñg Reina Valeriana sa Cahariang Berbania, which, in English, means, Adarna Bird, Life and Story of the Adventures of the Three Princes, Sons of King Ferdinand and Queen Valeriana of the Kingdom of Berbania.
The story is as follows:
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 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 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. 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 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 bird 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 of some parts of the body of the prince 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 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.