On Christmas Eve, the young Basilio sits outside a cottage in the woods and watches two children play. They are his informal adoptive siblings, but he doesn’t partake in their games. Rather, he tells the household’s grandfather—who found him passed out and injured in the woods two months before—that he needs to go into town to look for his mother. Reluctantly, the old man lets him go, and Basilio limps his way through the woods and into San Diego, where Captain Basilio speaks with Don Filipo in the street, telling him he’s lucky to have been let go unharmed by the Civil Guard, who merely burned his books. In this moment, Sisa runs by, still out of her mind. The young Basilio follows his mother’s singing, but she doesn’t recognize him.
Sisa’s failure to recognize her son is a testament to how severely her isolation from society has affected her. Despite that she originally dissociated because she couldn’t find her children, she now is unable to welcome Basilio, perhaps because she knows—on some unspoken level—that she no longer has a place in society and thus can’t welcome him back into the everyday life of San Diego. In other words, she’s cut herself off from everything she might be able to connect with—a survival tactic most likely meant to protect her from further heartache.
Trailing Sisa, Basilio finds himself entering the woods. Sisa runs into a thicket and enters a wooden gate that blocks off the tomb of Ibarra’s grandfather. When he himself arrives at the gate, she refuses to let him in. He pounds against it, saying, “Mother, it’s me, it’s me, it’s Basilio, your son!” When this fails, he climbs a tree, drops down on the other side of the fence, and keeps his mother from running away by hugging and kissing her. He then passes out, at which point Sisa sees she is holding her son. When he eventually wakes up, he discovers that now it is Sisa who is unconscious, and he’s unable to wake her. Putting his ear to her heart, he hears no pulse.
The fact that Sisa dies upon discovering that the boy following her is her son Basilio supports the notion that her inability to recognize him earlier was the result of a psychological defense mechanism. This defensive tactic sought to shield her from the shock of suddenly being given the chance to leave behind her social and psychological estrangement from her surroundings—seeing Basilio yanks her out of her reveries, and this process of connection is too abrupt for her to handle.
At that moment, a wounded man appears and drops to the ground. He asks Basilio if he’s seen anybody else at the tomb. He then asks what the boy is going to do with his dead mother. When Basilio fails to propose a plan, the man instructs him, telling him to fetch firewood to build a pyre. Explaining that he himself is about die, the man asks Basilio to put his and Sisa’s body on the pyre before lighting it. “Then,” he says, “if no one else comes…dig here, and you will find a great deal of gold…and it will all be yours.” As Basilio scrambles off to get the wood to build the pyre, the man faces east and whispers, “I die without seeing dawn’s light shining on my country…You, who will see it, welcome it for me…don’t forget those who fell during the nighttime.”
There are two indications in this scene that the man who comes upon Basilio is Elías. The first is that he knows precisely where the boy will find gold if he digs. Indeed, it was Elías who buried this gold in the first place in an attempt to save Ibarra’s riches from being confiscated when the young protagonist was arrested. Second, his dying words, “I die without seeing dawn’s light shining on my country” reflect Elías’s wish—which he voiced to Ibarra on the boat—to remain in his country, willing to fight for its independence even if it cost him his life. (Lastly, readers can be sure this figure is Elías and not Ibarra because of the fact that Rizal wrote El Filibusterismo, which follows Ibarra’s life after the events of Noli Me Tangere).