Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, Dec 17th, 2017

The Season of Giving

The Marriott International resort general managers in the CALA region, the Caribbean and Latin America, were challenged to raise $10,000 each for storm victims on the islands hit hard by the recent Caribbean hurricane season. In Aruba, the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino answered the challenge by partnering with the Surf Club, the Ocean Club and the Ritz Carlton Aruba to raise $50,000 jointly.

Last Friday our four GMs with Tom Calame and Louella Brezovar among them hosted the Season of Giving Affair selling out the Marriott’s ballroom and auctioning off 18 valuable prizes including vacations in the USA and in Aruba, artwork, boat trips, luxury goods and jewelry.

All providers of services to the resorts such as Setar, Nagico, Brown Lawyers, Pepia Est, Divino, CMB, De Palm Tours, Arion Wine Company, joined the effort. The idea was for them to enjoy a quality evening with members of management or line employees, while contributing to a great cause.

It all worked out perfectly, and when all was said and done the resorts in Aruba met their goal, in fact their exceeded it, hitting the $55.000 mark.

Compliments to the chefs, the food was spectacular, not an easy feat when you feed over 350 discerning customers. To add complications, this was the week, in which fresh produce container boats went to Curacao, instead of off-loading here, due to some container bottleneck in the Barcadera Port. Consequently,  without fresh products, the chefs had to clean out their own storerooms, and improvise, resulting in an amazing meal: Beetroot cured salmon Gravlax, truffle crème fraiche, roasted roots and vinaigrette, paired with Josh Sauvignon Blanc, California; Sea bass beure blanc with corn two ways, paired with Murphy Goode chardonnay, California; Slow cooked short rib, the Black Angus meat spent 36 hours in the oven, Armagnac and tarragon sauce, white onion cream, asparagus, and caramelized carrots paired with Cune Rioja Crianza, Spain. For dessert with licked our plates clean when The Decadence Chocolate Pecan Tart was served with caramelized bananas, caramel cream, orange candy, and dama di baccio ice cream, chased by Casia by Sartori Moscato Dolce, Veneto, Italy.

Then they all got up to dance, and dance and dance, with Buleria and DJ NutsBeatz encouraged by the open bar and free flowing cocktails all night.

Those with deep pockets bid on two JetBlue tickets to NY & five nights at the JW Marriott Essex House, starting at $2,000, but other silent auction items were equally nice and even affordable.

Our friends in St Thomas, Charlotte Amalie, at the Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort, are rebuilding as they are currently closed due to damages caused by Hurricane Irma. Other islands such as the British Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten, Grand Turks, and Key West, were badly hit, and the funds collected are dedicated to help associates in the disaster zones.

Best feature of the night: Our charming wait staff, all volunteers from the four resort properties, engineers, IT specialists, restaurant and bar people, all donating their time and their charm for the cause.

Two good stories: Art and Food

ArtSano contributes to social transformation

For years we have been hearing about Claudia’s project at KIA, the local correctional institute. First, she was making stylish purses from skinned boas, caught by locals in their yards, when a few years back the island‘s wilderness was threatened by the unwelcome invasive species. We wrote about her conservation efforts but the clever idea never came to fruition. The boas’ infestation came to a reasonable halt.

Then there was a cute artsy boutique, an ice cream place, a few other stints of amazing creativity at the airport, she was always in the news, long hair, bangles jangling, then finally this week her foundation, ArteSano, nice play on words, unveiled a floor to ceiling expo at Cas Di Cultura of artwork from unexpected places.

The works represents the artistic expression of students incarcerated at the correctional institute, and the work of students in the island’s two addiction rehab centers. She also runs a small art school in Madiki, a down on its heels neighborhood in town.

No man is an island. Arte Sano shares the credit with a diligent and passionate cadre of volunteers.

Claudia whose last name is even longer than her hair, Ruiz-Vasquez-Nooren, a native of Guatemala, which explains her colorful world outlook, explains ArteSano gives hope to people society marginalized, and delivers a second chance. In turn it also offers social transformation.

Check out the expo, the room is decked from ceiling to floor, highlighting Aruba’s culture, and natural beauty. The artists should be proud, they created beauty and thereby invested in changing their lives.

Chef Dino Blew into Town

Chef Dino Jagtiani is a friend of Aruba, and as such he drops in for a visit every once in a while as celebrity chef, dazzling us with his creations. His St. Maarten Temptations restaurant in Cope Coy was considered the island’s finest, fourteen years in a row, and then hurricane season blew into town, namely Irma then Maria.

While he thought he was well protected with hurricane shutters, and a good supply of food and water, sometime at 5am, after a 10 minute grinding encounter with Irma, Dino reports he realized it was a disaster, with glass shattering everywhere and the ceiling caving in.

He hung on to a door for two hours, and then surveyed the damage as the eye of the storm hovered over the island. He knew he would rebuild, but that it would take a long time to recover.

So meanwhile Carnival Cruises snatched him up as the travelling Celebrity Chef on board ships in the region; he has a whole fun routine about lime, and coconuts, guests love it, and he gets to hop on, and hop off, and that’s how he landed in Aruba one evening this week, finding his way into the Sunset Grille, Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino, to greet the executive chef Matt Boland. He also reconnected with culinary and social contacts at Divi Resorts and the Hyatt Regency.

But that’s not all, when on land, Dino is part of an exciting new St. Maarten project which opened this summer, Emilio’s, the island’s newest fine restaurant, offering a casual bistro style dining experience with a Caribbean flavored lunch and a superb dining experience showcasing the best from Chef Dino Jagtiani, for dinner. Emilio’s is located inside a brand new Rainforest Adventure Park, with the steepest zip line in the world, and a scenic chairlift, overlooking spectacular panoramic views.

New India Assurance Launches 2018 Calendar, Makes Donations

The Season of Giving theme continues to resonate in the local community. On Sunday night it was New India’s turn to shower social causes with attention.

The company has been publishing a personality calendar for the past 17 years. Eleven years ago, the drawing of the personalities was entrusted to Dominica-born artist Charito Chavez, who has been a resident of Aruba for many years.

She also produced the 2018 edition, first snapping a picture of her subjects, then executing the portrait on canvas. The portraits are not idealized representation of their masters; they are Charito’s interpretation of what she sees.

The evening took place at the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino ballroom, and emcee Cheryldine Buckley did an excellent job moving the evening along as Kaveri Raghunath, Managing Director New India Assurance Aruba, artist Charitto Chavez, and Operations Manager Gay Spellen, called their calendar personalities on stage for a photo opportunity and a check presentation.

This year to commemorate the company’s 55th anniversary each calendar personality was privileged with a check to a charity of their choice, Awg 1,055, in memory of the visionary patriarch Ch. H. Raghunath who started his insurance business in St. Nicholas in 1963 at the back of his jewelry store.

January: Sarah Quita Offringa. She appeared twice before on the calendar, in 2007 and 2006 when she first became World Windsurfing Champion. She has since repeated the feat 14 times, and returns to the calendar as Aruba’s best athlete.  Her charity of choice was Centro Juvenil Washington, dedicated to after-school activities.

February: Kevin Gumbs. He is a young dancer and choreograph, a dance teacher in the Netherlands, who frequently works in Aruba to promote artistic expression. His charity of choice was the Gang di Arte.

March: Clyde Harms. He is the founder of the Aruba Scholarship Foundation, a columnist and writer, a published author of three books who was already bestowed the honor of Ridder in de Orde van Oranje Nassau, by the Dutch royal house. His check went to Nuevo Mundo Foundation, promoting classical music.

April: Greg Peterson. The founder of Aruba Birdlife Conservation, he is an environmentalist, battling on behalf of the island’s Fauna and Flora. His check went to Aruba Marine Mammal Foundation.

May:  Rona Coster. She is a writer, a columnist, and radio personality, art lover, and author of Island Life, a recently published book about Aruba. Her support went to Fundacion Adopt an Addict, running Cas Speranza, a halfway house in Moko, for men in early recovery.

June: Ewald Biemans. The owner of Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort is a global voice for sustainable tourism and the motor behind “Stimami, Sterilisami,” an island wide spay and neuter program. His donation went to Animal Rights Aruba.

July: Aksel Samardzic.  Aruba’s only professional Beach Tennis player, ranked among the world’s top ten.  His check went to Fundacion pa nos Muchanan, in protection of kids.

August: Troubadour Etty Toppenberg. He was on the calendar once already in 2001. This year he is celebrating 55 years in music. One of his greatest contributions to our community is the weekly free concert at Djiespies Place on main street, every Friday, entertaining the elderly. His check went to Crijojo Trappers, running a spay and neuter program targeting street dogs and cats.

September: Damilice Mansur. She is a talented photographer, with a focus on nature and conservation of fauna and flora. Her contribution went to Aruba Birdlife Foundation.

October:  Gino Frans. He is the founder of Eliezer Foundation, a halfway farm sheltering men in early recovery.  His donation went to La Posada, dedicated to land cultivation and drug free living.

November: Esha Alwani. She is a 16 year old singer, composer, who already launched two CDs, “Beautiful” and “Dangerous,” describing her personal journey of healing and growth. Her check went to Fundacion Autismo.

December: Ethan Westera. The young windsurfer professional, with various world titles gave his donation to the Sonrisa foundation, dedicated to kids with learning disabilities.

Congratulations New India Assurance, on your cultural and social contributions. Not bad for a company established in Mumbai, India, in 1919.

Thank you Jean Antoine Baptiste, steel pan, and Etty Toppenberg and friends, for the entertainment.

Superwoman Wichita Villacres

I have been writing about Wichita Villacres for thirty years. We met on the board of the PTA of the International School of Aruba. She always had the craziest fund raising ideas, and one year we hit a record $60.000, not bad for a school PTA in Aruba, in the late 80s, just before the stock market crash and Black Monday.

She started talking about group travel early on. Instead of just booking individuals she dreamed of delivering group business to the island, MICE, meetings, incentives, conferences and expositions, representing clients with deep pockets interested in extravagant events and over the top productions.

At the time in the early 90, Aruba had a limited supply of rooms, no conference centers, and no infrastructure to service the type of client Wichita had in mind. But she established ECO Destination Management Services, and she was getting ready.

She talked about group business, travelled the world to find it, then finally in 1993, she helped showcased the island to a large group of buyers, for the first time, members of the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE). They came to Aruba to kick our tires, check the island out and determine if it will suit their particular finicky needs.

I was among those seated on the pool deck of La Cabana Beach Resort & Casino, for a Mexican lunch with the Site delegates. Of course I did not get the magnitude of the moment. Mo Baghiri, the Food & Beverage manager of the resort at the time, had to come up with a fast lunch for what I remember as hundreds of super important visitors. The pool deck was jam-packed with delegates seated at round tables, they only had 20 minutes for lunch on their busy Explore Aruba schedule, and Mo had to dazzle them with his resort’s culinary excellence.

He picked a Mexican menu, serving fajitas. It was a success. Group business for Aruba finally took off, because of Mo’s Fajitas and Wichita’s dynamic push, among other crazies like her at the Aruba Tourism Authority, who decided to seek a more demanding, more discerning client, and up the bar on our general performance and creativity.

Site came to Aruba again in 2009, and Ed Malone conjured up with a tent, which he pitched outside the then Radisson Aruba Resort & Casino, on Palm Beach. But that’s another story, for another occasion.

According to ATA, group business makes up 20% of the island’s tourism revenue today. Thank you Wichita.

So how does she do it? She travels around the globe meeting the people who will deliver the people, and this week in Aruba she got 30 of her best clients together for a spectacular celebration program also including an educational seminar with the students of UA. She’s always big on education! And BIG on giving back, and basically big on everything, long term relationship, especially.

At an elegantly decorated Renaissance Convention Center ECO DMS celebrated three decades of great work with many touching and entertaining moments.

The food was truly delicious, the entertainment fun, and ECO DMS managing director Maoreen Every, Wichita’s daughter, staged some fantastic surprises along the way. Wichita required a full box of Kleenex to deal with the flood of emotion they evoked. Good job Maoreen.

Here’s for the next 30 years.

In protection of journalists and journalism

Letter to the editor / Press Release by Johan P. Sjiem Fat

With the conflict between journalist Speed Andrade and the Chairman of the Aruban Parliament Ady Thijsen, history repeats itself.

It is not the first time that a conflict between a journalist and a political authority on our islands leads to a ban on access to the parliament, as a result of which the journalist is limited in his duties.

It is also not the first time that the journalist is taking the government to court as a result of this denied access to parliament.

I predict that it also will not be the first time that the court is likely to sanction the government’s action.

In 2004, Amigoe journalist Marjo Nederlof got involved in a quarrel with the Dutch Antillean Minister-President Mirna Godett during a press conference. As a result of the quarrel between these two ladies, Nederlof was denied access to press conferences of the Prime Minister.

The Amigoe and Nederlof dragged the government to court and argued that the denial of access constituted an unacceptable interference of the public authorities into the free and independent news gathering, which forms a fundamental part of the provisions of, among others, article 10 of the European Convention for the Human rights (ECHR) protected freedom of speech. In addition, the measure was discriminatory with respect to the Amigoe and Nederlof and therefore in violation of article 14 ECHR which prohibits any form of discrimination.

The Court of First Instance ruled in favor of the Amigoe and Nederlof by judgment of the 24th of January 2004. The government was ordered to admit the Amigoe and Nederlof to the press conferences of the Prime Minister just like the other news media and journalists on the island.

It is worthwhile to read the verdict that can be found online once more. Not only because of the relevance of the verdict as a precedent for the case of Speed ​​Andrade vs the Chairman of the Aruban Parliament, but also because Judge Bob Wit has included a number of worthwhile and amusing considerations in his verdict, which hits the nail on the head.

He jokingly mentions a remark from Groucho Marx: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies”. About the conflict between Nederlof and the Prime Minister, who obviously do not like each other, he remarks: “in Papiamentu we say: ‘nan sanger no ta sali ku otro’”. Another quote is: “We are not a banana republic and we should stay that way”. And finally: “Politicians in power must always keep in mind that they can return to an opposition role or status at any time and that they will then need to be able to exercise the rights, which they are now trying to restrict for opportunistic reasons”. Whoever fits the shoe, wear it! I would say.


Get your new birdlife calendar today!

Press release from Aruba Birdlife Conservation:

Hilton Aruba sponsors birdlife calendar 2018.

Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino has for the third consecutive year sponsored the Aruba Birdlife Conservation calendar. The 2018 Aruba bird calendar was presented by Hilton’s General Manager Hans-Georg Roehrbein to the ABC volunteers.

The calendars are of a high-end print quality. The 13 bird photographs were made available for publication by 8 ABC volunteers including Greg Peterson, Ross Boss Wauben, Ferdinand Kelkboom, Patrick Pena, Michiel and Sven Oversteegen, Albert Peterson, and Armando Goedgedrag.
The 2018 bird calendars may be purchased for Afl. 12,50 at Huchada Bakery in Santa Cruz and at Best Deal Aruba in Paradera. All proceeds go to Aruba Birdlife Conservation Foundation.

ABC appreciates the insight of Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino stepping up once again to support nature conservation awareness on the island.

Aruba Birdlife Conservation pledges to continue its efforts to protect 16 natural areas declared part of Parke National Arikok as treasured national heritage.

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December 17, 2017
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