Sean Marcus Ingalla

Reclaiming Narratives: EliBarra Fix-it Fanfiction as a Queer Reparative Reading of Noli Me Tangere

In 2012, the first fanfiction work entitled The Truth (Ang Katotohanan) dedicated to the pair of Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere characters Elias and Crisostomo Ibarra—known as “EliBarra” by their supporters, derived from the combination of both names—was uploaded to Archive of Our Own (AO3), an online non-profit platform for fan works. Ever since then, the pairing has accumulated a total of 102 works. A close reading of select EliBarra fanfiction divulges the means through which fans deepen their resonance with the source material by rectifying heteronormativity, embedding their lived experiences in the text, and challenging other forms of marginalization entrenched in narratives marred by oppressive conceptions. Disclosed, too, are insights on how these works impinge on the reading of the historicity lodged in the novel.  

Rizal’s influence pervades much of Philippine literature that emerged after his writings, with his ghost coming “not only as a spectral vision or mere revenant of him, but one who stands ready to face the nation’s many social ills that he himself had begun to address” (Chavez 126). Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, first published in 1887, is considered to be one of the most significant literary works in the Philippines, having depicted the Filipino people’s subjugation under the colonial Spanish regime. Underscoring the tension between the colonized subjects and the institution of the church heralding Spain’s oppressive apparatuses, the novel portrayed the latter’s actions through its characterization of friars. It is a work animated by contentions of power, recognizing that an essential aspect of maintaining an imposed order is the cultivation of subservience. In that acknowledgment stems the problematization of education as a tool wielded by the powerful and a potential weapon by the downtrodden to transgress the situation they were trapped in. Spotlighting this question of resistance, one of the key features of the novel is the strain between the ideals of Crisostomo Ibarra and Elias. While the former’s reformist stance espouses a peaceful resolution to societal ills, the latter embodies a revolutionary consciousness that acknowledges the necessity of a violent uprising (Hagimoto 25).  Read More