Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap March 17th, 2019

Aruba, where women lead

The Renaissance Convention Center hosted the 9th annual Women’s Conference on March 8th, 2019, on International Women’s Day, organized by GOA, themed Achieving Balance.

I listened to the streaming. Setar, we can do better.

And compliments to emcee Sandra Croes, who did a good job.

The MinFec was up first. I enjoyed listening to her, she is a good speaker, feisty and humorous. I used to cringe over her winded parliament diatribes from the opposition benches, but now as a minister she doesn’t repeat herself as much, and her content is straightforward; she is not afraid to show her real self, and her jokes are real.

I enjoyed the one where she was almost late to her son’s school because DOW closed all roads.

When talking about herself and her efforts to achieve balance between office duties and personal life, this single mother of one – she is now separated from her husband she explained, spoke compassionately about her ailing mother, and the need to be available.

She revealed she sings and dances to unwind, in the morning hours — no time for the gym.  

The only thing I did not see happening was going to the beach weekends.

This woman has no time for the beach, but if she had gone, I would have gladly hung out with her over a bottle of wine.   

So that takes care of the MinFec, she definitely grew on me. She has a tough road ahead.

The MinPres came next but I felt she rehashed her speech from the ATIA’s Women in Leadership Conference, calling for more females in the STEM field – science, technology, engineering and math. She also used the oxygen mask parable again, so yes, she is right, we must take care of ourselves first.

I liked the statistics revealed and celebrated that day:

53% of Aruba’s population is female, vs. 47% male.

At the University of Aruba of the 474 enrolled students, more than 60% are females.

52.1% of the island’s workforce is female.

97.7% of all women living here are literate.

75% of the island’s teachers are females.

43.3% of all managerial positions are held by females including the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, Economic Affairs & Culture, the head of the Central Bank, the CEOs of the Pension Funds, the CEO of the Aruba Tourism Authority and the CEO of the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association, the Government’s Chief Innovation Officer,33% of parliament and 25% of ministers are female, and 73% of all employees working for the Ministry of Finance, Economic Affairs & Culture, are female, according to the MinFec.

96% of females have daily access to the internet.

79.6% of females own a smart phone.

There are 26,414 females employed in Aruba VS 25,803 men – there were just 3,375 females in the workforce in 1960.    

The interesting morning included presentation and panel discussion, and demonstrated that women in our community lead, enjoying a wealth of personal, financial, economic, educational and social opportunities.

Successful Amuse Charity Dinner & Silent Auction

A very well attended Amuse Charity Dinner & Silent Auction, unfolded Monday night at the Restaurant at Tierra del Sol.

The event was sold out with the local Food & Beverage community as well as visitors, regular guests of Amuse, who joined the party under the tag line: Help Us Recover.

Some of the island’s best chef were in the kitchen preparing a 4-courses dinner meal for guests who each paid $150, with all funds collected earmarked towards the rebuild of the restaurant.

Credit is due to host Jim Rooseman, of Tierra del Sol, Harold Castro, of Costa Linda Beach Resort, Erwin Husken, of Screaming Eagle, Douglas Sanchez, of Sushi Ya, and Urvin Croes, of White Modern Cuisine and Kitchen Table for conceiving an excellent menu, and serving more than 150 guests at the same time.

(Service was nice too, by an army of hospitality students, asking politely if to fill my water glass.  Wine, I replied, and my wish was granted.)

The chefs were joined in the kitchen by an emotional Patrick van der Donk, chef-proprietor of Amuse Sunset Bistro who was moved to tears by the incredible willingness to help him reverse the course of history.

Ivette reports that many generous sponsors contributed to the successful evening.

From the Amuse GoFundMe page

On February 3rd, 2019, 10 years of hard work and honest effort by chef Patrick van der Donk and his wife and business partner Ivette Benavides was completely destroyed.

A late-night fire tore through their restaurant, leaving nothing to salvage. They lost everything in the fire, despite what they understood would be covered by insurance turned out otherwise. The insurer advised them that they are only entitled to very limited compensation.

But Patrick and Ivette are undeterred by this setback. They are strong and resilient people, a hard-working family, and devoted parents to 4-year-old triplet boys. Their focus is finding a new location for their restaurant while working out of a temporary “pop-up” location to pay their bills.

In order to re-establish what they lost and open a new location. Patrick and Ivette need our financial support. We are asking everyone who knows Patrick and Ivette or has visited their restaurant, to make a financial contribution thru this GoFundMe campaign. Every dollar raised will go directly to support the direct costs to re-establish their restaurant.

To show their appreciation for your donation, Patrick and Ivette would like to offer a gift certificate you can redeem at their new restaurant once opened.

Donate $50 and receive a certificate for two free drinks.

Donate $100 and receive a $25 certificate; Donate $200 and receive a $50 certificate; Donate $400 or more and receive a $100 certificate.

On behalf of Patrick and Ivette, thank you in advance for your support.




I have the flu of the century so thinking is hard. But I have a few short thoughts:

I printed the ROP plan called SDP in English, Spatial Development Plan, the special policy of Aruba regarding development, adopted by national decree. It is a fat spiral bound report.

I agreed with every word. It establishes things like: Salt Spray Park, Arashi up to and including Baby Beach and Rodgers beach, and part of the reef islands south of Aruba, stating that the policy will allow extensive recreational share use, on designated paths, providing this does not affect the values and quantities of the areas.

How can you not agree??  

A document like that must be read and internalized by every developer, architect, and contractor. But will they take the time to do it? Or will Aruba Birdlife Conservation continue to have to drag them to court?

Aruba Blacklisted?!

A story circulated furiously yesterday that Aruba is back on the OECD, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, black list for non-compliance with tax infrastructure. It was in the Amigoe di Aruba and other local papers. This is not a big story. Cool it. Due to bureaucracy, perhaps not having enough multi-taskers at legislation, and not enough focused individuals in Parliament, things take longer here, duh, some pieces of legislation are about to pass to fix that loop hole and make us lily-white.

IBIS laid to rest

I read a number of post-mortems and concluded that the island has lost its appetite for investigations. As you know IBIS was a joint effort between the local Landsrecherche and the Dutch. The local KPA got a lot of help from RST the special police task force, the detective cooperation teams. It cost a lot of money, it took a lot of time, and exhausted resources, so that in the present political landscape, I am told, there is little chance for IBIS 2.

I know a lot of us have been hoping the Netherlands will be asked to assist in further investigations, sending some anti-corruption teams to Aruba to go after a certain former minister notorious for his land deals, but with an all-time low spirit of collaboration, and with the former MinJust on the opposition benches, it ain’t happening.

Ling & Sons now on the main traffic artery, back with a vengeance

With the opening of the Ling & Sons rotunda, on WVB, I went to visit the much-loved albeit a bit neglected over the past few years, Ling & Sons Super Center.

After a lame run as a so-so Albert Heijn outlet, we heard last year that: “Alfabet Holdings, an investment group led by Gassan Azan, a Jamaican businessman who founded the MegaMart Wholesale Club in Jamaica, has acquired the Van den Tweel supermarket group, which operates in the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.

The chain comprises five stores known as Van den Tweel Supermarket, Ling & Sons, and Warehouse Supermarket. One is based in Aruba and two each in Bonaire and Curacao.”

A much-awaited change of ownership for the food store, some savior with Caribbean retail experience, showed up to lift it up from mediocrity!

My relationship with the store, goes a long way. I became a client of Ling & Sons Supermarket at their downtown location on Weststraat in the late ‘70s. I was new to the island at the time, and everything seemed different and challenging except the market shelves, which carried products I was familiar with, making me feel right at home. I also learned a new thing: to buy bok choy for my soup, and sweetened condensed milk for my coffee! If truth be told, I was perfectly happy at the four-aisle Weststraat store, with the occasional leaking refrigerator. I developed informal and friendly relationships with the Ling family members, especially Ingrid Ling, who listened to every request, big or small, for specialized products and seasonal selections, which she promptly imported, making sure we were notified that the items arrived in time for the holiday.”

That piece was part of an entry I wrote for a Ling & Sons commemorative book, said to be in print, but let’s not digress too much.

The diligent, and charming if I may say, new owners’ representative Omar Barrientos — Country Manager for the Super Center — reports his team has been working nights for the past 6 months to totally transform the store and the shopping experience.

Some of that transformation is now visible with all new, intimately lit, display shelves and an innovative, open and friendly layout.

Fruits and Vegetable first, always the best, a long-standing tradition with the store, then a butcher shop on the right with a just-introduced Prime USDA Angus beef program besides the expected Choice and Select.

The extended cafeteria will feature a larger selection of hot meals, prepared fresh every day, besides a rich salad bar, grab ‘n go sandwiches, wraps, salads and fresh juices.

The bakery, featuring breads, cakes, pastries and desserts including custom-cake service will occupy a full wing of the store; expect a 72-door unit offering frozen meals, pizza, ice creams, fresh-frozen fruits and vegetables.

A full-service liquor store with an extensive portfolio of fine wines by from California USA, Italy, Chile and Argentina, and many favorite Champagne labels.

A cosmetic store where you could solicit beauty tips from helpful staffers.

Best of all, the concept store is artfully illuminated, and the merchandise artistically displayed, with attractive graphic accents, and friendly signage.

Did we mention an air-conditioned dining room?

Double the number of cashiers?

Repaved parking lot?

Upgraded, beautified façade?

Ling & Sons is preparing for a big launch, when everything is said and done. So, stay tuned.

And one more surprise: An affiliated Super Center opening in the high-rise area, south of Palm Beach Plaza, easily accessible from all hotels and residences in the area.  

The Sunset Grille inaugurates a Wall of Fame

In the presence of Governor Alfonso Boekhoudt, former Governor Fredis Refunjol, Minister Andin Bikker, Minister Dangui Oduber, and their respective wives, the Sunset Grille at the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino had the distinct pleasure of unveiling its Wall of Fame, a picture gallery of island movers and shakers and celebrities.

All Wall of Famers were invited last night to view their portraits, and enjoy dinner in the elegant dining room, or on the wraparound terrace overlooking the Palm Beach tree tops.  

Businessman Rene Kan shared some of the restaurant’s history, just before the unveiling and reminded his invited guests that from around the Millennium, until the resort was recently refurbished by new ownership, the Aruba Growth Fund, walls were hung with caricatures of important locals, anchoring the restaurant in the island’s business life, and honoring patrons who regularly brought their special guests for dinner.

In that spirit, Kan explained, the return of the wall turned into an art project.

And it wasn’t easy to secure good images, but armed with his iphone Kan secretly took some pictures himself at regular business meetings, and the rest of the photographs were mostly sourced from social media.

Rona Coster helped curate and coordinate the project, recruiting the help of a talented Florida caricaturist who also worked for the Miami Herald and the Sun-Sentinel, Florida’s largest daily newspaper.

“Thank you to everyone who supplied us with pictures and those with the good humor who let us be their paparazzi for a day,” Kan bantered

One of the restaurant’s most exciting aspects is the return of executive chef Matt Boland. He was the one who led the Sunset Grill to numerous AAA Four Diamond Awards in the 80s and 90s, and he is the one entrusted with the task of returning the restaurant to its traditional steakhouse roots.

The Sunset Grille was the go-to place for getting business done and a place for those in the government to dine. “Please don’t hesitate to bring your guests and contacts back,” Kan said, “a new terrace was added last year, which makes the restaurant with its stunning views one of the nicest outdoor steakhouses in the world!”

And with Boland in charge, one can look forward to an impeccable dining experience in a restaurant setting befitting the Wall of Fame personalities.

Kan wrapped up his address stating that in 2015, the Aruba Growth Fund bought the property and branded it a Hilton. The following year the resort was remodeled. Operations really started in January 2017, and today, the company is proud to say that the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino is one of the most successful Hiltons in the world, and has one of the highest occupancy rates in the chain. Most importantly, the resort in Aruba enjoys one of the highest team member satisfaction scores, thanks to its talented and committed staffers.

From the very beginning, the company’s mission was to bring back the rich history of the Grand Dame, Kan stated. It did so with furniture and fixtures inspired by the sixties, with the artwork hanging throughout and with the recently renovated grand ballroom named after genius American architect Morris Lapidus. The brand-new Oscar’s Market in the lobby, named after the late Oscar Henriquez, the Aruban hospitality visionary is part of that philosophy.

So much of what excites Kan about the Aruba Caribbean is its ability to bridge the past with the future.

Arriving at the resort, one gets to see what made Aruba such an enticing island—the beautiful view of the ocean, the food, the celebrities, the stories of Oscar Henriquez…all tied to what it is still doing today: Making Aruba the best tourist destination in the world.

And guests of the property share in making that vision, a reality.

And while heiress Paris Hilton was not able to attend, her picture still hangs on the wall.

The public is invited to come view the Wall of Fame, and stay for dinner with family members and friends, the Sunset Grille is ready serve you with the best steakhouse experience under the sun!


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March 17, 2019
Rona Coster