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Filipino martial arts Kali the star of international show ‘Marvel Universe Live!’ |

Arts and Culture

Filipino martial arts Kali the star of international show ‘Marvel Universe Live!’

Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo -

MANILA, Philippines — “Kali originated in the Philippines!” an American cast member of “Marvel Universe Live!” proudly declared to prior to the opening of the international touring production in SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City last Friday.

“And I practice Filipino martial arts in America!” American cast member Gigi Santos told at a backstage tour for the show helmed by Feld Entertainment, the same producer behind the hit annual “Disney on Ice.”

“In our show, we primarily use Kali with our props… But, there are many different places to learn Kali here in the Philippines,” affirmed Santos, who plays the arch nemesis Nebula in the show. 

“Kali primarily uses sticks. These are your main symbol, if you will, of the Filipino martial art. And they’re basically point weapons to attack all points of the body – at the temple, close to the body, on the elbows, or if you want to attack the wrist and the fingers,” Santos explained while demonstrating some moves with fellow American cast member Sierra Perez, who plays Nebula’s sister Gamora.

“Kali is very showy, it’s very ka-bam!” Santos noted while ilustrating how to deweaponize one’s opponent using the martial art. “With Kali, you can attack your partner long-range, short-range, close-up.”

According to her, instead of the traditional sticks, they use a sharper semblance of the sticks as props for doing Kali in the show.

Apart from Kali, Perez said they also use European swordcraft and Japanese martial arts, among others, in the presentation. When all these different martial art forms are combined, they create a choreography of fast slashing, cutting and blocking movements.

“I love that she has such a strong character but she learns the value of family and to take care of other characters,” Perez described her character Gamora.

“I love that Nebula practices Kali!” Santos said on why she loves the Marvel character she portrays. “And I love that she’s so aggressive and that she has so many training styles. Once she’s on a mission, she’s ready to go!”

“Marvel Universe Live!” runs until June 16. Tickets are available from P300 at or at any authorized SM Tickets outlet nationwide. — Photo, video by Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo, video editing by Anjilica Andaya

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