Ibarra has a brief vision of his father dying in a jail cell while Ibarra himself laughs and drinks wine. He then cries himself to sleep.
Author José Rizal focuses in on Captain Tiago for a moment and describes him in more depth, characterizing him as “rich,” “at peace with God,” and “as happy as a man with a small head in that country can be.” Tiago is even at peace with the government, obeying it with ease. As alluded to earlier, he does not consider himself a native Filipino and joins in others’ criticisms of them. Rizal describes him as “the secretary-general of a rich society of mestizos,” though he notes that just as Tiago doesn’t consider himself one of them, most others do not either. (“Mestizos” are people who have mixed native Filipino and other heritage, typically Filipino and Spanish.) Nonetheless, he is a social leader, and well-liked by authorities. He pays priests and poorer people to pray for him, while his own beliefs are similar to polytheism, since he is devoted to several saints and often promises things to them.
Tiago isn’t popular with everyone, however. Many poor people see him as a cruel exploiter, while his subordinates find him tyrannical, and rumors swirl about his involvement with younger women. His wife, Doña Patrocinio, is devoted to him, however, since he lavishes her with extravagant gifts. Doña Patrocinio is, in fact, Tiago’s second wife; his first wife, Doña Pia, died in childbirth after years of praying for a son to be their heir. Her child, however, was a girl, María Clara, who was cared for by her aunt Isabel. Unlike Tiago, María Clara has pale skin and “semi-European” features, and she is adored by others. Crisóstomo Ibarra was her only friend during childhood, but around thirteen or fourteen, she entered a convent and was separated from him. While Ibarra was away, however, his father and Tiago agreed that the two should marry, which thrilled both María Clara and Ibarra.
Returning to the present narrative, Rizal states that María Clara and her aunt Isabel went to mass that morning. María Clara is in the process of leaving the convent and will soon see Ibarra for the first time in seven years, which fills her with anxiety. Suddenly, Ibarra arrives, and in a panic, María Clara runs away to the next room and listens as Ibarra asks about her. Isabel, who had followed her, convinces her to come back to see Ibarra.
The couple soon goes outside to talk alone and María Clara asks Ibarra if he thought about her often. In response, Ibarra exaggerates, eloquently recalling how she comforted him when his mother died, describing her as “the poetic embodiment of my homeland” and “a child of the Philippines,” and claiming that he constantly thought of her throughout his travels. Believing him, María Clara recalls playing together as children. However, when she mentions a letter from his father, in which he described his wishes for Ibarra to see the world, Ibarra is upset. Suddenly, Ibarra interrupts the moment, remembering that the next day is the Day of the Dead and that he needs to return to the village. As he drives through the outskirts of Manila in a coach, he admires the diverse scenes of city life and remarks on how much has changed since he left.
Ibarra’s vision of his father’s death shows the guilt he feels at having left his father in the Philippines to pursue his own education and travels in Europe.
Captain Tiago’s state of being “at peace with God” is deeply ironic, since he only obtains this peace through his immense wealth, which allows him to pay others to pray for him. The practices that he does follow are borderline sacrilegious according to Catholicism, since he has an almost polytheistic devotion to saints rather than to God. The fact that he is nonetheless able to feel spiritually at ease illustrates that the religious community in Tiago’s area has strayed from their ideals and those of Christianity. His eagerness to insult his fellow Filipinos shows his lack of principles, as well as his determination to ingratiate himself to others, particularly those with high social status. Aunt Isabel, who does attend church, seems to be a more pious figure.
Ibarra shows himself to be somewhat dishonest in his exaggeration of his thoughts for María Clara. Yet Ibarra’s father’s letter indicates that he does genuinely love her, since he wanted to marry her instead of going away to Europe to pursue his education. The letter also reveals Ibarra’s father’s ideal of sacrifice for a better future, which applies both to Ibarra’s personal life and the future of his country. That this letter makes Ibarra feel more guilty suggests that he feels he has not realized this ideal.
The changes in the landscape since Ibarra left are reflections of Spain’s growing influence over the Philippines. Ibarra sees that many signs of Spanish culture and customs have replaced those of Filipino life, illustrating the domination of the colonist’s culture.