Later that day, Elías visits Ibarra and informs him that he has enemies. Elías emphasizes that it’s important that these enemies think Ibarra is unaware of their malicious intentions. Ibarra is surprised to hear he has foes, but Elías assures him that “enmity is the law of life.” He explains that he met the yellow man the night before and that this man said mysterious things, statements that rose Elías’s suspicions, especially because this man previously visited the school’s architect and asked to oversee the setting of the large stone, asking for very little money in exchange. When Ibarra went down into the trench, Elías held the yellow man in his place so that he couldn’t escape, thereby killing him by putting him in the stone’s way. Grateful as he is, Ibarra questions the morality of this, but Elías says, “I didn’t kill him. I let the hand of God kill him.”
When Elías says that he “let the hand of God” kill the “yellow” man, he justifies his actions in a religious manner. This is significant because it shows that even a criminal in Noli Me Tangere still believes in God and sees religion as a positive force, even if the people currently running the church are corrupt. Indeed, Ibarra is similarly devoted to religion despite his bitterness toward people like Father Dámaso—this devotion can be seen in his earlier statement to the schoolmaster that he wants to “respect” the religion that brought education to the Philippines.
Impressed by Elías’ diction and his ideas, Ibarra asks who he is, wondering if he’s a scholar. “I have had to believe a great deal in God because I have lost my belief in men,” Elías replies. Before leaving, he says that he still owes Ibarra—because of the incident with the crocodile—and that he will be available whenever the young man desires his service.
Elías’s assertion that he must believe in God because he can’t believe in men illustrates that he too is isolated from his own country. Similar to how Tasio’s intellectual isolation gives him a sense of freedom, Elías’s distrust in other people instills in him religious faith—a faith perhaps more genuine than that of the priests themselves, who manipulate their religious offices to gain power.