This pandemic, much as it has restricted our moments of social gathering, has given more emphasis to virtual connections. Much as I miss physical community celebrations and how weary we may be of looking and talking to people on a grid, I also appreciate that I have made connections with people from different areas, because of this new norm of online meetings and events. One such connection is with Allan Matudio.
Allan Matudio is one of the writers featured in "A Tour of Canada through Philippine Eyes", a Philippine Heritage Month event. We were both guests in a Saludo Canada 2021 forum, talking about our respective events and work - i.e. the documentary Paglalayag: the Philippines to Canada Journey on my part, and the Kasama book on his part.
Allan is a visual artist, writer and organizer based in Montreal. His family’s path to migration to Canada started with an incident where his grandfather returned a briefcase that belonged to a wealthy German tourist. This incident led to his grandmother finding employment as a nanny in Germany, then in Spain. Allan’s mother, on the other hand, joined his grandmother in Spain and subsequently moved to Montreal for work, where relatives were gradually sponsored to Canada. Allan was born in Montreal.
Allan works professionally in the video game industry, but came into his visual arts career late. “I took art seriously when I was 26. I came in pretty late! I always drew for fun. I remember doing sequential art even in elementary school but that isn’t something to be proud of. It’s not like I was drawing proper anatomy at the time. I started pursuing art seriously after taking a few figure drawing classes. I realized that I wanted to get better and that it was really important to me. I basically dropped my previous career and started over. I have a Masters in Engineering, Chemical Engineering.” Allan studied art at the Syn Studio Art School Montreal that specializes in concept art and illustration for the entertainment industry.
Abandoning a career like Engineering is no mean feat, and to replace it with an arts career, is an unthinkable one, especially for Filipino families. Allan shares his challenges in pursuing his art, "Finding the time to study, practice and pay for books, supplies, and software. Visual art is expensive. It was all really stressful. I really wish I started learning art in my youth so that I had less responsibilities and more time for practice. To this day, I have trouble balancing work and my personal studies. I believe that you can never stop learning about art."
Last May 2021, Allan released “Kasama”, his first foray into the graphic novel medium, published by Anak Publishing. Kasama is the story of two friends managing their cultural differences so that they can hunt down the Filipino mythological creature, the manananggal. “I am really proud to be working with so many different people. My recent projects are the result of lots of community discussion. My graphic novel Kasama easily had a dozen people of different backgrounds and trades read it. I am proud that my work is reflective of a group of people. I can’t ever claim that my work is purely my own, I truly believe that WE did it together. I am also proud of how I approach my characters visually. I make conscious artistic decisions to make my characters look as Filipino as possible. The default ethnicity that we as artists draw is European. I often have pictures of Filipino elders and youth when I draw my characters to remind myself how we look, to remind myself it's ok to draw a flat nose and a soft jaw.”
Kasama started as a portfolio project and has since evolved into exploring the Filipino experience across borders. His efforts progressed from internet searches, deeper book researches, travel to the Philippines and involvement in Filipino grassroot organizations in the effort of relearning his heritage.
"Although I have been less active as a result of the Kasama book launch, I'm really proud of the work I am doing with the progressive Filipino organizations in Montreal. I work with some of the most intelligent, brave, passionate and warm people. I don't think I would be able to create such compelling work without the guidance of Anakbayan Montreal, Pinay Qc, Center for Philippine Concerns, Kapit-Bisig Montreal and Migrante Qc, for example. The most recent endeavour we took on is a COVID-19 relief platform. We applied for financial aid, delivered groceries, created content, and in the coming days, we plan to lead a campaign for walk-in vaccinations specifically targeted to the Filipino community.
I also like to do research about everything that has to do with Filipinos in Montreal. I love getting into statistical data, reading old news articles and academic literature. I believe the community has an archiving problem which got me into looking into this stuff myself. I just find it so fascinating when I can connect these different events so we can complete our story as Filipino Montrealers."
For someone who has confessed having trouble balancing his time, Allan has managed an impressive amount of pursuits. On other art forms he is interested in, “Poetry and writing, and Filipino hip-hop inspire me and inform my work. I am so blessed to be among people like Deann Louise Nardo, for example. The way they create imagery and motion with words while addressing relatable themes makes me wish I can do the same with my visuals. Although I enjoy reading, I never really loved reading until I started reading from Filipinos. Classics like Carlos Bulosan to contemporary works like those in ANAKPublishing, they’re all so stimulating.
I also really enjoy Filipino hip-hop. The way Tagalog is structured and all the borrowed words from our mixed ancestry and colonization allow for limitless possibilities for word-play. There is so much syllable repetition in the language, it's natural for it to sound rhythmic. Legends like Gloc-9 still create amazing music. Loonie, BLKD, Ruby Ibarra, Price Tagg, CLR, Flow G... There are so many amazing artists out there!"
Graphic novels have increased in popularity as it is an accessible and engaging literacy, research and educational tool. Allan Matudio, in sacrificing one career, has found one that allowed for self-expression and identity. We wish him all the best and look forward to future works on exploring the Filipino multi-faced identity through visual storytelling.
You can view Allan's works in Instagram @allanmina, and order "Kasama" at AnakPublishing.ca, $19.95.
This article was published in the June 2021 issue of the Alberta Filipino Journal.
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