Turning their attention to the door, the dinner guests behold Captain Tiago and a young man named Don Crisóstomo Ibarra. When Tiago announces Ibarra to the crowd, the entire room is silent except for several cries of surprise or bewilderment. Father Dámaso, for his part, goes pale. Seeing him, Ibarra bounds over with a smile, extending his hand and saying, “It’s my village priest! Father Dámaso, a close friend of my father’s!” When Dámaso hesitates—all eyes on him—Ibarra voices his confusion. Finally, Father Dámaso says, “You are not mistaken, but your father was never a close friend of mine.”
This first interaction between Father Dámaso and Ibarra quickly establishes the harsh dynamic of their relationship. Dámaso’s cold reception of Ibarra’s enthusiasm also suggests that something has happened between the two men and that Ibarra is unaware of the change in circumstances. The crowd’s silence seems to further suggest that the circumstances of Ibarra’s arrival are fraught with tension, and Ibarra is left to piece together the strangeness on his own.
Puzzled, Ibarra turns around to find the lieutenant behind him. “Young man,” says the lieutenant, “are you Don Rafael Ibarra’s son?” Ibarra confirms that he is, and the lieutenant eagerly welcomes him back to the Philippines, speaking about his father using the past tense, which confirms Ibarra’s suspicion—heretofore unvoiced—that his father has died.
The lieutenant’s sincere reception of Ibarra—along with the fact that Ibarra’s father has died—suggests that Ibarra’s current situation is most likely related to the lieutenant and Father Dámaso’s recent argument. The kindness the lieutenant shows Ibarra also aligns the young man with the government rather than the church.
Moving throughout the party, Ibarra finds that the subsets of guests either awkwardly ignore him or warmly embrace him. Captain Tinong, a friend of Tiago’s, is one of the ones who jump to make Ibarra’s acquaintance, inviting him to dinner the next day, though Ibarra must decline because he has plans to travel to San Diego. Their conversation is interrupted when a waiter announces that dinner is served.
The fact that the group of dinner guests is so stratified when it comes to how they treat Ibarra suggests that he is a controversial figure in this community. The reason for this, though, seems to be a mystery to Ibarra. How the guests treat him most likely has to do with whether they align themselves with the church or the state.