As Elías rows Ibarra to safety after stopping at María Clara’s house, he suggests a plan: he will hide Ibarra at a friend’s house in another town while he goes to Ibarra’s grandfather’s tomb, where he has hidden Ibarra’s money. He’ll then help Ibarra leave the country, safely transporting him to Spain where he can live free of danger. As thanks for everything he’s done, Ibarra invites Elías to come live with him abroad, but Elías declines, saying, “It’s true I can neither love my country nor be happy here, but I can suffer and die in it, and for it.” When Ibarra asks why, then, Elías is telling him to leave, Elías says, “Because you can be happy elsewhere, but I can’t […].” This insults Ibarra, who suddenly decides he wants to stay in the Philippines to fight for his country.
Elías’s refusal to leave the country shows that, at least on some level, he understands the futility of isolation. Indeed, he knows that it is better to “suffer and die” fighting against oppression than to permanently estrange oneself from one’s own country. Listening to this, Ibarra realizes that, now that he’s been accused of heresy and widely condemned, he understands why somebody would believe in total revolution rather than organic reform. Readers will remember Elías previously asserted that a person can only understand this after having experienced persecution firsthand, and Ibarra’s change of heart corroborates this theory.
As they row on the lake, Elías points out that Ibarra’s newfound will to fight contrasts his earlier reluctance to support revolution. Ibarra argues that this is because he can now see “the horrible cancer gnawing at this society.” Now that he has experienced the worst his country has to offer, he accepts the title of a “subversive.” “They opened my eyes, they made me see the sores and forced me to become a criminal! And so, just what they wanted, I will be a subversive, but a true subversive,” he declares. He then corrects himself, saying that he won’t actually be a true criminal, since a person isn’t a criminal if he’s fighting for the good of his country. In contrast, Elías is apprehensive, warning Ibarra that his attitude is liable to start a war. “I will never accede to those measures as long as I see men hope,” he says.
Suddenly, Ibarra has adopted the vehemence of a bandit revolutionary like Captain Pablo. Elías, on the other hand, remains less idealistic, urging his friend to temper his enthusiasm. But Ibarra is overzealous and enthralled by finally understanding that—as Elías has previously argued—oppressive systems create criminals and subversives. This is the same line of thinking that encouraged Crispín to wish he actually had stolen from the parish house, and this parallel demonstrates that Rizal has been developing this theory regarding subversion throughout the entire novel.
As Ibarra and Elías debate, a boat of Civil Guard members starts chasing them. Ibarra ducks beneath bales of hay, and Elías tries to out-row the Civil Guard, but it’s clear they’ll catch up. “Do you know how to handle a boat?” he asks Ibarra, telling him that he’ll jump into the water so the Civil Guard members will follow him, thinking he’s Ibarra. The real Ibarra will then row to shore. Bullets skim the water around them, and just before Elías dives overboard, he tells Ibarra to meet him on Christmas Eve at his grandfather’s tomb in the woods. Then Elías dives and, as expected, the Civil Guard follows him, shooting all the while. He plunges deep and swims for long periods of time, only surfacing occasionally for air in a sporadic pattern. After a half hour, the guards don’t see him resurface, and they even think they see hues of blood in the water.
Elías’s willingness to endanger himself for Ibarra once again reveals his loyalty to his friend. When considering this loyalty, it’s important to remember that Ibarra’s great-grandfather disgraced Elías’s family and caused them to live in destitution for multiple generations. In the same way that Elías has a complicated relationship with his country—feeling that he must fight for it despite the fact that he cannot “love” or “be happy” in it—he has a fraught relationship with Ibarra, whom he both resents and respects.