Marilyn Alcantara-Leung, Class 1975
When I was very young, my Papa asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. That made me think and considered answering, “Que Sera Sera”. But then the artist in me prompted me to answer him “I would like to be a painter”. My father’s reply was “Oh my dear Nene, (my family’s term of endearment for me, I being the youngest amongst my siblings), you will not survive as an artist and you might just end up painting walls”. Being a lover of music and the piano, I gave him my next option-to be a pianist. My dear father gave another thumbs down to the idea and told me “Haay, you will always end up eating the last because you’ll be playing while people are dining”. I wonder if his retorts made sense. Anyways, he finally asked me if I wanted to be a medical doctor or a dentist- as if these were the only professions in this world. Hmmm, a medical doctor? No way because I couldn’t remember a night when I could sleep with the lights off. My roommate was my older sister, who was then in Med School, studied till the wee hours of the morning.
Since my father and two older siblings were dentists, I opted for the latter thinking that that was the most practical option. To this day, I have no regrets for having made such a choice.
However, my love for the arts and music never waned.
My Papa and Mama hired a piano teacher for me when I was about 3 years old when they noticed that I had some talent in music. The succeeding piano lessons were in grade school in my alma mater, St. Theresa’s College, Quezon City. My teacher was a nun and I had to give up my Home Economics (HE) class twice a week in exchange for the lessons. However, for some reason I reached only Grade 2A in piano. My parents probably realized that I might lag behind in my HE projects, which I also loved to indulge in.
How did this passion for music start?
As a little girl of maybe 3 or 4, if my memory serves me right, my Papa would sit me on his lap with me tinkering with the piano keys while he played, something which he did not mind at all. My family said I could play with both hands by ear as early as the age of 4. The nuns of Maryknoll College, Manila where I was enrolled in Kindergarten, would make me play during school programs, according to my siblings. Incidentally, my father, my eldest brother and eldest sister all played piano by ear as well. I was exposed to the music of their time which explains why those pieces they played both on the piano and the phonograph got stuck in my memory. Those were songs and melodies of the ‘30s to the ‘60s- music I enjoyed listening to and playing, not so much the music of my time. I was greatly inspired by my dentist brother Roger who was also a percussionist and his musician friends like Romy Posadas, Romy Katindig, Boying Geronimo, Chito Feliciano and many more who used to jam in our house till early morning. I would sit by the stairway and listen to their Jazz and Latin pieces. Roger was also a member of the Executive Band with First Lady Ming Ramos, Bobby Mañosa, Raul Manglapus, et al.
Being in awe of these jazz artists, I tried learning this type of music under the tutelage of an old teacher. Unfortunately, these lessons were short lived as he passed away not long after. I dabbled a bit with the music notes of John Mehegan, which were rather complicated and needed a lot of patience to learn. He was a well- known American jazz pianist and lecturer. Currently, a nephew-in- law is sharing with me music sheets of Bill Evans, the king of modern jazz pianists.
Playing piano has proven to be very therapeutic. I can sit down and play for hours. It calms my mind, it is a great source of stress relief, and can improve mental health and self-esteem – giving one a more positive outlook in life. It is never too late for anyone to learn it. To end, may I share this quote from Leo Buscaglia ‘Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God’.
Dr. Marilyn Leung is a member of the UPCD Class of 1975 and is still actively practicing Orthodontics. She is joined in her practice by her son Eugene Jay & his wife, Karla Camello-Leung, both from UPCD Class of 2005.
She was a past president of the Association of Philippine Orthodontists (2002-2004); and a past president of the International College of Dentists (2012). She is also a Fellow of the Academy of Dentistry International and is currently the Finance Officer and a Director of Smile Pilipinas Development Foundation, Incorporated.