Rio Gonzaga: the first narrative voice in the novel, which sets the tone for the entire book. In the beginning, she reveals her thoughts and fantasies as a ten-year-old girl. While Rio belongs to the upper class, she has compassion for the lower class. Consequently, she enjoys the company of her grandmother and all the servants. Later, Rio leaves from Manila to the United States with her mother and only revisits her childhood home as an adult.
Pucha Gonzaga: Rio's cousin. She enjoys being the center of attention and craves a glamorous life. Although she marries Boomboom Alacran, a wealthy man with good connections, the marriage doesn't last.
Severo Alacran: a self-made man who owns corporations such as TruCola Soft Drinks and SPORTEX. He controls interests in Mabuhay Movie Studios. He has many mistresses including Lolita Luna and sleeps with many of his servants.
Isabel Alacran: Severo Alacran's wife and a former beauty queen.
Rosario "Baby" Alacran: Severo and Isabel's daughter. Unlike her mother, she is plump, shy, and awkward. At 17, she gets pregnant and elopes with Pepe Carreon.
Daisy Avila: a beauty pageant queen. After winning the title of Miss Philippines, she publicly denounces the pageant and becomes involved with political leftist Santos Tirador. Consequently, Daisy is arrested, raped and tortured by General Ledesma and his military men. She later becomes a refugee in the mountains.
Joey Sands: a gay prostitute who works as a DJ at CocoRico. After he witnesses the assassination of Senator Avila, he hides out at Uncle's shack and eventually has help from Boy-Boy to escape the law.
Uncle: adopted Joey after his prostitute mother abandoned him. Uncle teaches Joey the art of stealing and abuses him sexually. Later, he betrays Joey by attempting to sell him out to the authorities.
Orlando (Romeo) Rosales: a self-absorbed man who believes his beauty will grant him fame. In an attempt of pursuing an acting career, he decides one day to end his amorous relationship with Trinidad. On that day, he is mistaken for someone in a group of subversives based in the Cordilleras. Orlando is fatally shot and thus becomes part of the aftermath of the Senator’s assassination.
Andres Alacran: the homosexual owner of CocoRico, a prestige bar that attracts many foreigners and famous people.
Boy Boy: an orphan also taken in by Uncle. During the assassination scandal, Boy Boy helps Joey escape from Uncle and the police.
Sergeant Planas: works for Pepe Carreon and is Uncle's contact in the government. Uncle attempts to betray Joey through the Sergeant.
The President and The First Lady: a corrupt dictator and his wife. Their names are never explicitly mentioned, though there are several allusions to Ferdinand Edralin Marcos and his wife, Imelda Romualdez Marcos. For example, the First Lady's "cultural center" has similarities to the Cultural Center of the Philippines commissioned by Marcos. In an interview in last part of the book, the First Lady discusses her shoes, likely a direct reference to Imelda Marcos's extensive shoe collection.
General Ledesma: a powerful figure who cheats on his wife with the famous movie star Lolita Luna.
Lolita Luna: a famous movie star known for her sexuality and magnificent body. She uses her fame to manipulate powerful men like General Ledesma. She wishes to leave the Philippines for the United States.
Pepe Carreon: works with General Ledesma. He later elopes with Baby Alacran.
Rainer: a famous German director. He has a short relationship with Joey Sands.
Senator Domingo Avila: a politician and human rights activist labeled a leftist by the government. His assassination becomes a great mystery since it is unclear who shot him.
Trinidad Gamboa: a sales associate at SPORTEX who enjoys being associated with the prestigious and wealthy. She dates Romeo.
Cora Camacho: the star of a popular television show; she interviews important figures such as Severo Alacran and Daisy Avila.