Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap April 29th, 2017

Aruba Meets Europe 2018

The annual AME, Aruba Meets Europe 2018, was an interactive five-day event last week with 56 delegates from Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, UK, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden & Poland.

The Renaissance Ocean Suites offered the BonBini Cocktail and dinner with the MinTour in attendance. According to his welcome address more than 90.000 Europeans visited our shores in 2017, and while the Netherlands is the main hub for vacationers, other countries have also come on board.

Compliments to the MinTour for showing up and speaking.

I saw coalition and opposition members of parliament attending the events, KUDOS to all. It is about tourism, not politics!

The following day the Hyatt Regency held a nicely orchestrated event featuring Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes as the keynote speaker. She spoke about ATA’s strategic Direction for 2018: The Big Picture. She said the European market has been steadily supporting Aruba at about 8% of the island’s tourism, and that European guests stay an average of 11 days here.

A fun presentation of the new followed with the Evolution of the European Creative Campaign by Sanju Luidens and Europe’s area director, Tirso Tromp. Go to the website to see the entertaining videos.

James Fazio gave the Gateway 2030 presentation about the expansion of the airport, he speaks well and delivers good news.

AME is organized annually by the Aruba Tourism Authority in collaboration with the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association. This year’s edition with tour operators, wholesalers, and airline partners, dedicated to the promotion of the island as a vacation destination, from Europe, featured some new faces, which is a positive development.

On day two, delegates were treated to a cocktail party at the Amsterdam Manor, in a cozy local garden set up, followed by a spectacular sunset champagne toast and wellness cocktails to sax music, over jumbo shrimp at Bucuti and Tara Beach Resorts, toes in the sand. The sax player then led the parade from the Bucuti to the Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa for an outdoor experience with sultry, sexy Lucre entertaining over hors d’oeuvres.

I have to say that the five-day program was incredibly layered with interesting, fun activities, chasing each other in rapid succession. Conference delegates had a good time, I did too.


As the tourism economy continues to be one of the bright stars in an uncertain world, together we must prepare and take actions to safeguard its sustainable development.

In the case of Aruba, it is vital to our livelihood, as we are the number two most tourism-reliant nation in the world. Aruba’s total Travel & Tourism contribution is 86.5% of GDP and 87% of total employment.

The A.T.A. is committed to foster a sustainable tourism development … to the benefit of the Aruban community, the visitor, and you … our partners, of course in close collaboration with you and other key stakeholders.

Our strategic direction and key priorities for 2018 are in line with trends and developments brought forward and take into account tourism’s contribution to the island’s GDP as well as its wellbeing.

Later she added:

We cannot stand still. The travel industry is not static; our product offering and global marketing strategies shouldn’t be either.

As we look forward, we zero in on what tourism can contribute to our future society and on what Aruba uniquely can contribute to the future traveler.

Leche de Tigre, a divine elixir

If you did not attend the ceviche pop up at the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino last weekend, then you missed out on a great culinary event.

But don’t worry, they will do it again, because it was a huge success.

At the wake of that evening I must conclude that I am addicted to Peruvian fish-juice, Leche de Tigre, the salty-sour heavenly marinade prepared to cure seafood. It’s a simple concoction of lime juice, or any citrus fruit, onions, Chili peppers, and salt. Wow, it packs such a punch. I am told it’s the freshness, combined with quick delivery, that makes it so vibrant and zippy.

Considered both an aphrodisiac and a cure for hang-overs, it makes Peruvian seafood so exciting. Cancha the roasted Peruvian corn nuts add a super crunchy-crunch.

Back to that night at the Marriott: The menu at the lobby bar ceviche popup featured four colossal chefs who presented three dishes each. We did our best to have one of each and failed. But overall, we did pretty good:

Chef Rodrigo Torres – From Mexico, where he works at a fancy Ritz Carlton Reserve; we devoured his Octopus Taco and Tuna Tostada, the first starring the mollusk escorted by chorizo aioli, pickled onions, toasted peanuts, avocado, and salsa macha, all stuffed into tiny taco shells; the second featuring diced tuna with ponzu sauce, shitake mushrooms, chipotle pepper, avocado and crispy leeks.

Every bite was an incredible fusion of Japanese, Mexican and Peruvian ingredients, we worshiped every flavor explosion, then shamelessly ordered encores.

Chef Ever De Pena – Born in Venezuela raised in Aruba, we have to admit that his Vegan ceviche was our favorite. Would you believe it? A Sans-Ceviche dish won our hearts. Chef Ever cleverly marinated artichokes, hearts of palm, asparagus, mushrooms, and sweet potato, sprinkling some opaque, beady Peruvian corn around, plus cancha and cilantro sprouts in Leche de Tigre for an atomic blast of salty, sour, creamy, and sweet sensations.

On the other end of the spectrum we tried Chef Ever’s Peruvian Market Style Ceviche, made with red snapper, Peruvian corn, sweet potato mash, corn cancha powder, crispy sweet potato, and calamari chicharron, which mean fried.

It was a true classic, I was sorry to see the bottom of my bowl.   

Chef Romeo Penacino – From Argentina, the best chefs among divers/photographers and the best diver/photographer among chefs. We tried his lobster causa, two perfect balls of creamy yellow mash potato with Chili and lime, avocado cream, golf cherry tomato and crispy sweet potato, making the perfect platform for a Maine lobster claw.

Romeo, we might have ordered one more of your dishes but after a Pisco Sour, and a Pisco Punch, I don’t remember! The causa was da bomb.

Chef Teddy Bouroncle – From Peru, and currently the resort’s Director of Food & Beverage. We met him in the lobby just before being seated and he shared some of his culinary zaniness with us. We followed his advice ordering Tiradito, barely seared scallops, grilled avocado, capers, olive oil, local Madam Jeanette pepper, sweet potato and Osetra caviar. I want Teddy to come live with me and make Tiradito every day.

Our second selection, the Anticucho, a term used for a typical dish, delivered tender grilled octopus paired with baby potatoes, and dollops of three lovely sauces, crunchy panka mayo, purple olive mayo, and kombu/kelp chimichurri.  I asked Chef Teddy how come his octopus is so tender, and he rolled his eyes. I get it. Of course, it’s tender, it was prepared by Peruvian culinary royalty.

We usually declare it “niet normaal,” when something is really-really great!

The Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino is the birthplace of the Aruba Ariba

Every Caribbean Island has its own signature fruity rum punch cocktail. In Aruba it is indisputably the Aruba Ariba, and every bartender on the island agrees it was created at the Carib, The Aruba Caribbean Resort, in the 60s, and that the recipe includes vodka, and 151 rum, laced with Crème de Banana and flavored with Coecoei, a liquor made from the sap of the agave plant that is only available in Aruba.

The infusion of orange, cranberry and pineapple juices lend the drink its friendly appeal while the distinctive Coecoei adds punch, as it is 100 proof alcohol in content. The cherry grenadine syrup, or the Triple Sec are popular alternative options, the Maraschino cherry, a must.

While we all agree on where the cocktail was created, the mixologist‘s name is regularly forgotten. However, it is official now, the credit must go to Juan “Jocky” Tromp, and recently the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino had the pleasure of hosting him and his family for dinner at the Sunset Grille.

Mixologist Tromp was working at the time as a bar-back at the Bali Bar when he invented the Aruba Ariba cocktail – that was on July 1st, 1963, he remembers. The drink was originally named the Ariba Aruba but is now most commonly known as Aruba Ariba.

Tromp still keeps his original recipe on a piece of paper which he treasures, with all ingredients listed.

As guest of honor for the night, the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino awarded Tromp a Certificate of Recognition, celebrating the most popular cocktail’s 55th anniversary. The award was proudly toasted with an Aruba Ariba.

The evening provided an excellent opportunity for old timers and new timers to mix and mingle, as some of the resort’s current team members remember working with Tromp in the Good Ole Days.

Tromp is a taxi driver at present, and next year he will be celebrating 60 years in hospitality and tourism. He remembers starting in the industry in 1959, the year it all began, the same year as the Aruba Caribbean hotel opened.

The Aruba Ariba cocktail is a signature cocktail at the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino. Many visitors solicit the recipe and recreate it at home, bringing back fond memories of vacations in the sun.

Visitors often report that the Coecoei, which can only be bought here, can be replaced by a mix of Rum and Grenadine, but it is never the same…. it’s only perfect in Aruba.

Drinker beware, while the cocktail is refreshing and delicious, it is pleasantly intoxicating!

The water is murky, you gotta dig deep

A motion to conduct a forensic investigation of the former Ministry of Infrastructure and Integration, was approved in Parliament with 12 votes pro, 8 con.   

Parliamentarian Marisol Lopez-Tromp handed in the motion to investigate and Parliament voted on it. As expected the coalition said yes, the opposition said no – they were one vote short with one of their members missing.

Nevertheless, the decision to investigate the former MinInfra and his wicked ways stands.

This upcoming investigation must be conducted by an outsider, a company specializing in deep, murky water archeology.

I heard the name Forensic-Caribbean mentioned, they worked in Aruba before, uncovering dirty laundry in a number of previous cases. They are from Curacao and could do the job of looking into foreign bank transfers, and chains of code language e-mail.

The former MinInfra is accused of leaving a chaotic situation behind, affecting the infrastructure portfolio, a punishable-by-law mess that was left for the current MinInfra to sort out, which he says, is a monumental task.

Moreover, as we all heard, the former MinInfra doesn’t give a damn, and he expects his successors to just “deal with it.”

In my experience as a gossip columnist, where there is smoke there is fire!

And we have been hearing for years about irregularities, about the MinInfra’s special way of authorizing projects by just scribbling his name and “In Agreement” on hand-written petitions, which by the mere power of his signature as a sitting minister, made those legal and valid.

A similar motion of distrust was handed in before, regrettably, it was not sustained by Parliament at the time, but this time it stuck.

With the goal of Integrity in Government, GOA is now requesting a forensic investigation into the following:
Illegal and fraudulent land deals between 2009 and 2017; The mismanagement of owned lands and leased lands; The violation of ROP, our environmental guidelines; consistent disregard of process and procedure; promises made to many regarding dubious developments; blatant nepotism; the whereabout of up to 8 million florins, paid by investors – 5 promil of their investment in construction projects; Chaotic situation at DIP, the land department, where the former MinInfra accounted for nothing.

According to the current MinInfra, he has hard proof of these irregularities and mismanagement, which he recently shared in detail, in Parliament.

Of course, we want to know what happened, we heard so many blood-boiling stories. How were the parcels in the Malmok Salina granted? What happened to the houses at Seroe Colorado?  We want to hear the truth about the notorious middle woman.  

And now finally, with some patience, someone will take time to look into the allegations.

I salute that, because only in an Orwellian world all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.  In Aruba no one should be above the law, and if the MinInfra allowed his self-importance to go to his head, or if he just has a chronic inability to say NO, he should answer the charges.


ImSan kicks off a masterplan

In the heart of this week’s positive developments, Dr. Joel Rajnherc, a born-in-Aruba feisty and tenacious, now retired pediatrician, who over the past nine years, got 3 different ministers of health and an endless number of key-players to point their noses in the same direction. Kudos doc, you are a pit bull of a man, you sunk your teeth into the project and refused to let go!!

So, what’s the story? Instituto Medical San Nicolas (ImSan) a medical facility for ambulatory care, is managed by the above, famous, Dr. Joel Rajnherc. This relentless medicine man pushed and shoved and finally, this week, got his vision to materialize.

ImSan held a kick off ceremony for its new radio therapy facility, so that besides the dialysis department with 18 machines — since September 2013; the new Oncology Center will provide diagnostic services and treatment, within the next 18 months. The center will be treating 90% of the cancer cases in Aruba, with the exception perhaps of complicated brain tumors, that require more specialized machinery.

In collaboration with Baptist Health of South Florida, ImSan is also building 3 operation theaters for general surgery and one dedicated to Ophthalmology, eye surgery.

Rajnherc hooked up with Baptist Health around 2009, it was a chance introduction via a friend of a friend who knew the CEO. They were picked as consultants, and over the years the relationship worked well for both parties.

Needless to say, Rajnherc was overjoyed when in the presence of the MinHealth he sledge-hammered the door open, leading to the space about to become his bedless, ambulatory clinic.

He was also happy to report that ImSan which was set up as a Sui Generis, not a government agency but a unique independent legal entity within the public sphere — which allows a flexible organizational structure and work processes — secured all funding from local and regional financial institutions, to the tune of 60 million florins.

As a Sui Generis ImSan is run like a private sector company with financial results due every April 1st and every cent accounted for. As such, Rajnherc is determined to conclude construction, on time, on budget and on specs.

As the IMSAN medical director he has his hands full, but that has always been the case. Rajnherc practiced in the Netherlands for 12.5 years and 20 years in Aruba as everyone’s beloved pediatrician. In recent years he devotes all his energy to the ImSan day care, giving residents of San Nicholas a first-class medical facility.

Why a special eye surgery facility, I asked?

Obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, he answered, we have an abundance of cases because of our sedentary life style. Ophthalmologists will fix and repair at ImSan, both AZV and private patients.

How will it all work, I asked? ImSan is making the investment and AZV will refer its clients and pay for the services previously unavailable here, Rajnherc explains. So, no more expensive travel to Colombia.  Cancer patients in need of radio therapy may stay home, and be treated here, huge expenses saved.  “And we dedicated a generous budget for staff training by Baptist Health to provide patients with an extra special level of care,” he adds.

It’s all great news: We just read about the new PCI, Percutaneous Coronary Intervention clinic at the hospital, fixing hearts, and now a new cancer center, with telemedicine capabilities connecting with the expert radio oncologist in Florida!  


Orange Ball at the Hilton in a new more relaxed format

This year’s Governor’s ball featured a more relaxed dress code, cocktail instead of gala, and dance music, when his excellency governor Alfonso Boekhoudt hosted the annual King’s Birthday celebration, in honor of His Majesty King Willem Alexander, the 51-year-old monarch of the Netherlands.

The King’s official birthday is celebrated each year with a social event for the Governor’s invitees, while the locals enjoys island wide street markets, and special events.

In his rather lengthy and important speech on Thursday night the Governor elaborated on a number of issues, dear to his heart. He talked about a balanced economy and the need to reconcile sustainability and progress; he encouraged volunteer work, mentioning a number of social initiative he values, such as Adopt an Addict, Hands-4-Addicts, Trampolin pa Trabou, and Sea Bunita, Sea Bo Mes; he praised the protection of the environment, green areas and nature in general, already under urban pressure and congestion;  lauded the island’s multi-cultural spirit, and expressed his wish to include all groups in main stream, especially those with special needs. He praised the drive to help residents of neighboring islands in the wake of last year’s hurricane season, applauded the pacific and uneventful election process and the smooth formation of the government last year, expressed satisfaction with the coalition lineup, and finally stated he anticipates transparency and open collaboration.

The world stable, sustainable, and long lasting repeated themselves through his speech, as he outlined his vision for an inclusive, compassionate, humane and law-abiding island. He praised Aruba’s unique features such as Papiamento and the innate Aruban friendliness, paired with acceptance of people from different origins.

Toward the end of his address he talked warmly about the condecorated individuals which distinguished themselves by serving their country and their society selflessly, in their daily volunteer work. He honored our own First Lady of Culture who was awarded the royal Dutch Silver Carnation, Alice van Romondt, for being Alice, he said, and for supporting culture, literature and art in all forms.

His excellency suggested giving Aruba a chance, believing in the country’s future success, and wellbeing and ended his speech with a traditional Champagne toast in honor of his majesty, Long Live the King. 

The special event was attended by members of parliament, and ministers, and nicely catered by the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino. Chef Matt Boland and his culinary team offered some of their best bite-size specialties conveniently presented in shooters, ramekins and mini plates, including a Cesar Salad shooter, Miso Glazed Sea Bass, Mango laced Pulled Pork with sweet potato mash on Pan Bati medallions and Keshi Yena Wellingtons, our favorite dish in tiny baked boats. Classic French pastries with a contemporary twist delighted party-goers for dessert, over elegantly served cocktails.

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April 29, 2018
Rona Coster