It took ten long years and a pandemic for Denise Barbacena to finally finish college.
The GMA-7 talent earned her Bachelor's of Science degree in Medical Technology from Our Lady of Fatima University, Antipolo.
The Bubble Gang star proudly posted her graduation photo on Instagram.
In her caption, she thanked the people who had helped her through the years: "I'd like to thank my family, dear friends, and loved ones who supported me and cheered for me every time things were a bit heavy to handle.
"To my beloved professors and to my artist center family, thank you.
"You all made this journey possible. I am beyond blessed to be able to work and go to school at the same time.
"I don't know what the future holds, but will continue to walk in faith."
DENISE'S DECADE-LONG JOURNEY
In her YouTube vlog, Denise recounted how she entered college as a freshman in 2010, then joined the GMA-7 reality talent search program Protégé the following year.
The aspiring performer bowed out of the competition early, but the show managed to kick-start her showbiz career.
She performed in the Kapuso network's string of Sunday noontime shows. She also honed her acting skills in teleseryes and drama anthogologies, and she showed her comedy chops as a mainstay in Bubble Gang.
In spite of her busy showbiz schedule, she decided to continue aiming for a college degree.
Denise recalled how it took her a full school year to complete one semester.
She explained in her vlog, "Iyong course ko na Medical Technology, sa isang sem, meron kami at least seven na subjects.
"Iyong seven na subjects na iyon, halos kalahati nun, let's say tatlo, merong laboratory.
"Sa laboratory, minsan sa isang buong araw, meron kayo three o four hours na nagla-laboratory kayo.
"So, habang nagtatrabaho ako sa GMA... hindi ko kinaya na mag-take ng full load o ng isang buong semester na may pitong subjects nang tuluy-tuloy kasi hindi ko kaya pumasok every day.
"Kaya ang nangyari, sa isang semester, tatlo lang nakukuha ko.
"Tatlong subjects lang, so iyong isang semester, kinukuha ko siya ng isang buong taon.
"Kaya tumagal ng sampung taon itong journey ko sa college."
Aside from not being able to take a full-course load, Denise also faced academic challenges along the way.
"Minsan pa, nagkakaroon ng ilang delays. Siyempre, hindi natin maiiwasan diyan iyong may mga mababa kang exams.
"Hindi naman ako exempted doon."
denise on finally graduating: "this is just the beginning."
When she realized that she was finally close to graduating, Denise reflected on her long and winding journey and accepted that it may not end with a graduation ceremony in light of the current situation.
The Bubble Gang regular continued, "After 10 long years and a pandemic, naka-graduate na iyong batch ko, iyong talagang mga kaklase ko, mga kasabayan ko nung 2010.
"Nakaparami ko na ring batch na naging kaklase. Mga mas bata pa sa akin, kasi 10 years, e.
"Sabi nga ng mga kapatid ko, para na rin akong nag-Medicine.
"Sa loob ng sampung taon na iyon, palagi ko na-i-imagine kung paano pagka nasa graduation ceremony na ako.
"Bawat failure, bawat delay sa subject, bawat mababang score sa quizzes, sa exams.
"Iyong kaba na baka hindi ko ito mapasa kasi wala akong masyadong aral dahil galing ako sa taping o may inaaral ako na kanta na kailangan ma-perform ko rin nang maayos.
"After all the delays, I wanna believe God has a plan and His own timing."
Denise then ended her vlog with an inspiring message for her fellow graduates.
"This is just the beginning. Celebrate your success with or without graduation march, with o without that graduation picture.
"And with faith and with people who truly love you and care for you and believe in you, nothing is impossible.
"And of course, you have to be the first person na nagla-love and nagke-care at nagbi-believe sa sarili mo."