Rizal devotes this chapter to describing Captain Tiago, a man of Filipino descent who is considered one of the region’s richest property owners. He is an influential planter in San Diego, an upwardly mobile town where Tiago spends two months per year. In addition to being wealthy and well-respected in government circles, he is also a pious man. Indeed, his riches ensure his godliness, for he pays priests and poor people to pray for him. Whenever Tiago finds himself in a pinch, when he really needs something from the heavens, he promises all sorts of things to certain saints. He even believes in polytheism and, in order to make sure his religious affinities pay off, spreads his devotion between multiple saints and divine figures.
Rizal’s depiction of Captain Tiago as a pious man is shot through with irony, since what Tiago is most interested in is his own prosperity. He doesn’t even pray for himself, and his belief in polytheism quite obviously goes against Christian doctrine. Nonetheless, he’s well-regarded in the religious community because of his riches and his willingness to pay priests to make up for his lack of actual spiritual devotion.
Regarding his strong ties to the government, Rizal notes that Tiago is “always ready to obey the army’s lower-ranking officers.” Whenever he hears somebody critique Filipino natives, he eagerly joins in, since he doesn’t consider himself a “native.” When Captain Tiago was young, he met and married a woman who gave birth to a little girl, despite the fact that he had requested to a saint (while performing a honorific dance) that she give birth to a boy. Unfortunately, his wife died during childbirth, leaving him to raise María Clara with the help of his cousin, Aunt Isabel. To this day, everybody loves and admires María Clara, who is engaged to be married to Ibarra.
That Tiago jumps at the opportunity to insult the character of his own people further shows how spineless he is. He wants to be in the good graces of anybody who has a modicum of power, including “lower-ranking officers.” The fact that Tiago is a sycophant obsessed with gaining power by association is important to keep in mind as Rizal explores the social dynamics at play in the Philippines during Spanish colonization, especially insofar as they pertain to Tiago’s affiliation with Ibarra.