THE only thing a man needs to succeed in life, Dennis thought, is his face. Not his intelligence, or his skills, or his character, but his face.

Since childhood, Dennis had been both mama’s boy and papa’s boy, not because he was smart (he wasn’t), or because he possessed a great talent (he didn’t), but simply and only because he was beautiful.

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In grade school he was every teacher’s pet; when he went to high school he became every girl’s crush. In college, he got invited to every party, which was why he flunked every subject (he wasn’t bright to begin with). Eventually, he dropped out.

When he applied for a job in an insurance company, he found himself sitting next to an applicant who was a cum laude graduate, master’s degree holder and relative of the company’s owner. Dennis had nothing; he was an undergrad with a half-page resumé, but he did look like a Greek god sitting next to a frog.

Sure enough, the company picked him.

After three months, Dennis quit his job. He quickly found another job, but he left that one, too, and the next, and it went on like that for a couple of years—always getting hired because of his looks, and always getting fired after being discovered his looks were actually all he had.

He thought, Well, if good looks are all that God has given me, I’d put them to good use, and I’d use them in the only way that good looks are useful.

He started frequenting the night life in Balibago, showing up in casinos and hotel lobbies and hobnobbing with the city’s rich and famous. Soon he was being invited to dining rooms and later bedrooms of lonely matrons—widows and spinsters and wives whose husbands were absent or cold or equally deceitful.

At first, his lack of social graces and awkward attempts to join a conversation embarrassed his date, and made jaws drop all over. But he was the most sought-after boy toy in town, a trophy boyfriend guaranteed to make friends and enemies gawk and gape and fill with envy.

Well, Dennis thought, I think I have finally found my purpose in life: I would bring happiness to the unhappy, pleasure to the lonely, hope to the hopeless, and youth to the old and grey.

He wasn’t after the money at all. He had at times given his services for free, or at a discount, or on credit. He was only glad to make other people happy in the only way he knew how.

The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 put an abrupt end to Dennis’ glory days. Parties stopped, rich patrons and matrons fled the city, and the only places left to sell his wares were public toilets, parks and movie houses.

Drugs and lack of sleep and the degradation of his trade soon took their toll on his body, and one morning Dennis woke up and found his beauty gone. He was forced to lower his rates and learn new tricks, but there were just too many new rivals, younger and even prettier than he, all pushed to nocturnal hunts by the widespread poverty that the eruption had caused.

Clutching at straws, Dennis tried to love an older man who had put him in an apartment with a modest weekly allowance. The relationship failed. He next fell in love with a bar girl, but their affair was doomed from the start. Then he played boyfriend to a high school student, but was nearly jailed when the student’s parents found out.

He tried looking for his family, but lahar had wiped out the entire village and they were nowhere to be found.

Next he tried to contact his old benefactors, those kindly ladies who once used and abused him, but they wouldn’t answer the doorbell or return his calls.

Exhausted and exasperated, Dennis took a bus and landed in Baguio City. He spent several nights on a bench in Burnham Park, until policemen chased him away and he ended up as a pick-up boy of a big, fat man, who tied him to a bed and made him do all sorts of vile and sickening acts.

But Dennis kept returning to him, partly because he had no one else to go to, and partly because he had started enjoying his company. He even convinced himself that he could actually love him.

As it turned out, the big, fat man had a former lover who was a member of a notorious fraternity. One night, the former lover had Dennis picked up from the house, tied to a jeep and dragged, face down, all the way from Baguio to La Union.

When they found his body the next day on a roadside in Agoo town, they didn’t recognize him, because his face—that beautiful face—had been erased, literally, after being rubbed off on the whole stretch of the zigzag road.

His Kapampangan acquaintances eventually identified his remains and gave him a proper burial in Angeles City.

And that’s how the story of the short, unhappy life of Dennis ended.