Allan Matudio's debut graphic novel Kasama opens in the bustling streets of Orkidias City, a fictional setting in the Philippines.
Matudio paints the scene in stunning detail, pulling on his experiences visiting the country.
Through the panels, you can almost hear the sound of tuk tuks and jeepneys filling the air. A crowd of locals and tourists swarm the avenue. There are street vendors grilling an assortment of street foods.
Matudio was born and raised in the Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood of Montreal, where there is a strong Filipino community. But, he soon realized, the Filipino presence fades away in different parts of the city.
"After leaving that neighbourhood, I realized there isn't that much knowledge about Filipino culture in Montreal," he said.
That is one of the reasons he created Kasama.
Growing up, Matudio also felt disconnected from his heritage. He visited his father's old neighbourhood in the Philippines to learn more.
Kasama is filled with references to Filipino life. His protagonists, Allison and Kia, come face-to-face with a vampire-like mythical creature called the Manananggal. The title of the book also comes from one of the Philippines' most popular languages: Tagalog.
Kasama, Matudio explains, is the Tagalog word for companion or allyship — themes that thread their way through the story.
Tagalog is the mother tongue of over 500,000 Canadians, according to the most recent census. This is a reflection of the many Filipino diasporic communities across the country.
In the Philippines, it is common for people to leave to work in other countries, and send a part of their income home to their families.
Matudio himself has family members who were separated from their parents until their teens.
He wanted to create content that reflects his life and the lives of loved ones.
"I just wanted to have content available for someone like me," he said.
In Kasama, he doesn't shy away from exploring the impact of that diaspora in his story.
One of the story's protagonists, Allison, saves a boy from a group of bullies. We then learn that the boy's parents are separated, both working in different countries. He explains to Allison that he feels his parents don't love him anymore.
Matudio joins a relatively small number of Canadian-Filipino storytellers with this new graphic novel.
"There's just a handful of us, as far as I know," he said in an interview with Sabrina Marandola on CBC's Let's Go. "It's great to be part of this burgeoning community."
Art and writing are a relatively new venture for Matudio. He has a master's in chemical engineering and worked in nano-technology for two years. He has always tinkered with art, but only recently took formal lessons.
Now that his first book is out, he's not stopping any time soon.
"Telling Filipino stories is important to me," he said. "There's definitely more to come."
LISTEN | Allan Matudio tells the story of how his comic book was created: