Mactan is a fictional story based on a true incident in WWII. General MacArthur needs to get the wounded out of Manila before the Japanese invade and most likely kill them. Edward Forbisher is ordered to go into Manila ahead of the invasion and find seaworthy transportation for these troops to Australia. The first few chapters put us in the thick of the war in the Philippines and enmesh us in the difficulty of Forbisher's assignment along with his adventures and entanglements on the treacherous trip.The rickety inter-island ferry, Mactan, named after an island in the archipelago, makes it safely to Australia where Forbisher goes AWOL and disappears into the Australian back country.
These first chapters alternate with a separate story set in the present of Matthew Wintercorn from Texas who lands in Manila anticipating adventure in his new job assignment with the American Red Cross. Wintercorn becomes interested in a photo of the Mactan on a wall at the ARC and seeks to find out the story behind it. Matthew finds more adventure than he ever dreamed, along with a mystery and love interest.