That night Ibarra hosts a large dinner. All of the town’s most important people are in attendance, except for Father Dámaso. During the meal, Captain Tiago receives a telegram saying the Captain General will arrive to stay at his house that evening, and he rushes off to prepare. The friars exchange furtive glances at one another, clearly insulted that the Captain General isn’t staying in the parish house. A number of other telegrams then come to the table, each one announcing the same news to the governor, the ensign, and the mayor. Again, the friars are insulted by having been excluded.
The list of people who receive the Captain General’s telegram are all affiliated in some way or another with either San Diego’s high society or the local government. A clear indication that the Captain General is weary of the friarocracy, this is yet another instance in which Rizal puts the church and the government at odds with one another.
At a certain point in the dinner, Father Dámaso arrives uninvited. He sits down just as the other guests raise a toast to Ibarra, celebrating the young man’s project and referencing the wonderful architecture. Father Dámaso interrupts, saying, “You would have to be dumber than these indios, who put up their own houses, not to know how to build four walls and put a thatched roof on top, and then you have a school!” Ibarra tries to ignore this, and Dámaso’s subsequent rant turns more pointedly insulting. “You know what an indio is like,” he says later. “The minute he learns one thing, he’s an expert. Every snot-nose goes to Europe.” He then makes a reference to Don Rafael’s death, and Ibarra jumps out of his chair, pinning the priest with one hand and holding a knife in the other.
Ibarra’s rage is certainly the result of Dámaso’s insulting remark about Don Rafael, but there is something else that fuels his anger: the friar’s racism. Ibarra himself is a native Filipino (though his ancestry also includes Spanish blood), rendering him what Dámaso would call an “indio.” As such, the racism that is deeply ingrained in a colonized country surfaces at Ibarra’s own dinner party when Dámaso calls “indios” “dumb” and naïve. It’s evident Dámaso is trying to assert his power over Ibarra by insulting his race and expecting him to take such harsh words in stride. Dámaso miscalculates, though, and his assumption that Ibarra will refrain from harming him because he’s a priest is gravely incorrect.
“Get back!” Ibarra yells to the crowd as he holds down Father Dámaso. He assures his audience that he is of sound mind and body, and he tells everybody what Dámaso did to his father. As his anger reaches new heights, he raises the knife, but María Clara snatches it from his hand. He looks at her with crazed eyes before covering his face and fleeing the scene.
Once more, Rizal puts María Clara in a difficult position, choosing between Father Dámaso (who is close to her father) and Ibarra (who is her fiancé). Though she supports Ibarra, she sees that he is about to commit an act he won’t be able to undo, and she uses the power she has to stop him, stepping into the tumultuous dynamic between the priest and her lover.