You can find the history of Ibong Adarna in an era of narratives disguised as poems. This Filipino tale is so popular and integral in the study of Philippine literature that it is a requirement in all high schools in the archipelago. The most perplexing fact about the renowned tale is that nobody actually knows who wrote the story.
The tale concerns an ailing king, King Fernando, of the kingdom Berbanya. The local doctors believe that the only cure for the king’s malady is for him to hear the song of a magical bird that resides in the mountain of Tabor in a place called Piedras Platas. In order to save the life of their father, his three sons—Prince Diego, Prince Pedro and Prince Juan—sought to catch the enchanted bird. The first two sons journeyed the treacherous path to the mountain one after the other. However, they both fell asleep when they heard the bird Adarna sing. And no sooner were they transformed into stone statues when the excreta of the bird fell on them after they had fallen asleep. Prince Juan was then left to bring the bird back to his now-dying father despite the hesitation of his mother, Queen Valeriana. Halfway through the journey he was able to help a hermit who was able to teach him the secrets of catching the Adarna. He succeeds in both catching the bird and changing his brothers back to their human forms. However, on the way home his brothers betray him and Prince Juan is left to tackle the perils of the forest on his own. He gets back home eventually but not before experiencing a number of mishaps.
The pre-Hispanic Filipinos had their own epics, long narratives of bravery enshrined in mythical settings and plots. However, during the occupation of the Spanish the publications were monopolized by the friars and the books produced were solely religious in theme. Despite this, the Filipinos were able to regain their love for adventure and all things enchanted with the rise of the corrido and awit forms of writing. Both are basically narrative poems that talk about the quests of royalties and nobles. A corrido is distinct from an awit in that the former often has a pensive and serious mood compared to the romance-driven awit. The Ibong Adarna is classified as a corrido.
Although the awit and the corrido may seem to be secular literary works, they in fact have a lot of Christian undertones. Both works start with a prayer, and the mention of God is evident throughout the entire piece.
Although a number of awit and corrido writers existed in the past (including the father of Filipino Poems, Francisco Balagtas), a lot of scholars believe that the Ibong Adarna was actually written by a man named Jose dela Cruz who was known by his nickname as “Juseng Sisiw.”