Philippine economy

Balete at Kamias: All that jazz and more

Candice Lopez-quimpo
Balete at Kamias will no longer be mistaken for a jazz bar soon

HELLO, SKARLET! Myra 'Skarlet' Ruaro with the AMP band at Balete@Kamias. All photos from the Balete at Kamias Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – Do not mistake Balete@Kamias for a jazz bar, especially if you’re merely assuming based on initial impression.

Having stalwart acts like the AMP Big Band in their regular show lineup could certainly lend to this assumption. The big band repertoire, after all, is bound by its jazz associations from the swing era. Even if they scale it down to the 9-piece AMP Nonet — and especially when they add jazz and ska chanteuse Myra “Skarlet” Ruaro to the mix — the jazz label is one to stick.

But on other nights, you’ll get quite a change of pace: Balete@Kamias is sometimes a piano bar; other nights, an open mic place.

Still, the venue is having a hard time escaping the jazz box, largely because the acts featured are mostly from the genre. It was not the plan, though. 

Planting the seeds 


Rick Countryman and Tierry Garcia met in what used to be Skarlet’s Jazz Kitchen. The closing of the venue and the availability of a rundown house in Quezon City brought about a series of what-ifs, mostly revolving around creating a new home for jams and other kinds of performances.

“We used to have private barbecues here,” recounts Rick. “And we’d talk about ‘Oh, what if this place…’”

Those barbecues evolved into what Rick would call “Musician’s Nights” to test out the venue’s potential.

“We started out late in October 2012 just doing, investing in the stage and sound equipment. I just invited my friends to come to a jazz casual, just have a little private thing. We kept doing that, but it was not intended to make money,” he adds.

Putting the plan into action

OPEN MIC. Bobbet Bernadas at the piano

While jazz connects Rick and Tierry, Rick adamantly clarifies that Balete@Kamias is an events venue more than a gig center.

“What we’re doing is not a bar scene,” Rick says. “We’re not trying to get the bar bands every night. If we don’t have a performance, then we don’t open.”

The vision is to establish Balete@Kamias as host to creative concepts.

In fact, the idea is to go beyond music shows. Performances and activities of all sorts are welcome: from music workshops to improvisation nights, to art shows and business functions.

Making sense of the business

CLASS ACT. Tots Tolentino and his jazz ensemble

The only catch [if you should call it such] is that the people at Balete@Kamias do not wear producers’ hats.

Interested parties are, instead, invited to explore the idea of exploiting the venue as a suitable location for their own audience. It is a destination point for those who want to stage a show, not a way to get discovered by walk-in guests.

What one has to keep in mind is that every venue — even one that aims to provide a home to the most worthwhile acts — needs to consider profitability seriously. It’s a cycle that involves being able to support both artists’ and the establishment’s mutual needs for sustainability and support.

More, more

KAMIAS WONDERLAND. Bituin Escalante who plays the Red Queen in Repertory Philippines' ongoing 'Alice in Wonderland' also performs at Balete@Kamias

Alice awake: Repertory Philippines’ ‘Alice in Wonderland’

In today’s era of collaboration, the idea of art for art’s sake must lend to the growth of everyone involved.

This brings us back to the plans of Rick and Tierry to expand Balete@Kamias’ repertoire of shows. 

If you want good jazz — be it big band, improvisation or vocal-based performances — then check out Balete@Kamias’ schedule of shows. You might even catch top names like Bituin Escalante or Tots Tolentino.

My suggestion is that you explore what else they have to offer. They have a lot of things in mind that they’re keeping to themselves for now, but chances are Balete@Kamias will no longer be mistaken for a jazz bar soon.

We eagerly wait. –


Balete@Kamias is at 175 Kamias Road, Quezon City. Call for inquiries and reservations at (02) 512-0853 or 435-4088. Text +63929-5810094 or +63917-7565708. Visit their Facebook page.

Candice Lopez-Quimpo

Candice Lopez-Quimpo is a writer-editor who enjoys being a hands-on mom. While she constantly looks for stories to tell and collaborations to explore, she often finds herself pondering about the curiosities that come with everyday life and the happy mayhem brought about by a growing family.

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