The first main character is Rio Gonzaga. Rio is the narrator of the first part. In her narration, she recalls her early life up until she was fifteen years old. Joey Sands is the next main character; he is also a narrator. He was orphaned when his mother took her life; his father is unknown except that he was an American soldier of African American descent. Joey works as a disc jockey and has a tumultuous sexual existence that incorporates theft of drugs and money. Other prominent characters are General Nicasio Ledesma, Senator Domingo Avila and Daisy Consuelo Avila.
This is a complex novel with many characters contributing to the development of the plot. They include:
Rio Gonzaga: She is an upper-class teenager and one of the first-person narrators of the novel. She lives in Manila in the Philippines but later moves to the United States.
Pucha Gonzaga: She is a cousin to Rio and also narrates a chapter in the novel. She marries Boomboom Alacran but the marriage falls apart.
Freddie Gonzaga and Delores Gonzaga: These are Rio's father and mother. Freddie is a successful businessman.
Joey Sands: He is the son of an unknown black American soldier and a Filipino prostitute. Joey is raised as a petty criminal by his uncle and works at CocoRico, a club owned by Andres Alacran. He is gay.
General Nicasio Ledesma: He is a powerful army general who runs a camp where people opposed to the dictator are kept and often tortured. His wife, Leonor, is devout and spends her days in prayer.
Lolita Luna: She is a movie star and the mistress of General Ledesma. She is a habitual drug user.
Senator Domingo Avila: He is the leader of the party opposing The President.
Daisy Consuelo Avila: Daisy, the daughter of Senator Domingo Avila, wins a beauty pageant. She then marries Malcolm Webb (an English man). After the marriage breaks down, she becomes part of a resistance movement. She is captured and raped by General Ledesma's men.