The first time Maria Laroco felt she belonged under the bright lights of international stardom was around five years ago, inside their living room while watching "The X Factor UK" with her mom.
"Someday, I'm going to be up there," she told her.
It was the season British singer Sam Bailey won, and the sensation that she could achieve the same glittery heights, given her confidence in her own singing, quickly filled her head.
What followed was an impressive TV debut on the first season of "The Voice Kids," and tireless attempts at auditioning for a chance to sing in front of Simon Cowell himself.
This year, the teen finally got her break. And although her stint was brief -- having been eliminated before the live shows -- she lasted long enough to know that there was no turning back.
"When I saw all the British people, all the judges, lalo na po si Simon, up on their feet clapping and cheering for me, it was overwhelming," she told reporters this Thursday. "I've just been dreaming for that moment to happen -- and it happened!"
For her audition, she sang a stunning rendition of Prince's "Purple Rain" --a song she was not at all familiar with. In fact, it was her first time to perform that song live, though one would not have guessed this given how confident she looked.
According to Laroco, singing "Purple Rain" was Cowell's idea.
Just minutes before her performance, Cowell approached her onstage and asked her if she could ditch the earlier plan to have her sing Jessie J's "Domino" and do the Prince cover instead.
It turned out to be one of the many masterstrokes Cowell was capable of. "I was super nervous because my mom doesn't even like that song," Laroco playfully quipped.
But while Cowell basically ensured that she got to stay in the competition, it was also the famed producer who had to break it to her that she has been eliminated.
Fast forward to the "Judges' Houses" round, and Cowell, along with a collection of the biggest names in the music industry, were watching a recording of Laroco singing "California Dreamin."
It was revealed that she had visa issues, which was why she could not travel to Cowell's home in Malibu, California and sing live. In a nutshell, she was told to apply for a visitor's visa, but the embassy deemed that she needed a performer's visa.
As a compromise, the "The X Factor UK" had her record her song in a studio in London -- a first in the show's history.
"It was heartbreaking po to learn that I was not going to LA," she admitted. "Pero kalaunan ay na-realize ko na I'm lucky pala that I was still part of the competition, and all the judges and big people watched me."
Laroco was one of the two girls eliminated following the highly intense screening.
She vows to try again next year, her hope buoyed by some encouraging parting words from Cowell.
"At first, parang naiyak na po ako. 'Oh my God, it's over.' But he told me, 'Promise me that you'll come back next year. If not, I'll be the one to fly to the Philippines to get you here,'" she said.
"So babalik po ako and I have no intention to break my promise to him."