María Clara’s health slowly improves, much to the surprise of Doctor de Espadaña, who has prescribed a simple marshmallow syrup regimen. Father Salví attributes this improvement to religion, for he took María Clara’s confession. As he debates with Doña Victorina about the value of religion over science, María Clara’s friends urge her to take one more pill, which they store in a glass tube secretly sent to them by Ibarra. Aunt Isabel enters the room and tells her to prepare to give another confession. As her friends leave, she whispers, “Tell him to forget about me” into Sinang’s ear.
Father Salví and Doña Victorina’s argument about religion and science speaks to their desire to portray their own affiliations as powerful. Salví, on the one hand, is a priest and therefore wants people to think that María Clara has improved because of his piety. Victoriña, on the other hand, wants people to think her husband’s medical care is superior to Salví’s religious efforts.
Aunt Isabel prepares María Clara for confession by reading her the ten commandments. María Clara weeps at first, heaving especially large sobs during the fifth commandment. But her woe falls away for the last five, which puzzles her aunt. When Father Salví comes and takes the young woman’s confession, he looks deeply into her eyes. Upon leaving, he is covered in sweat, looking like he was the one who “had confessed, and did not deserve absolution.”
The fifth commandment is “Honour thy father and thy mother.” Bearing this in mind, María Clara weeps upon hearing this commandment because she feels pressured by Captain Tiago—and perhaps by the memory of her mother—to honor her family by abandoning Ibarra and consenting to marry Linares.