I started travel for the year by experiencing the worst and the best airports in the world. The worst of course is the Manila International Airport and the best is no other than Changi International Airport in Singapore.

For several years in a row, the Manila International Airport was named as the worst airport in the world! Looking closer it may not be that accurate as the Philippines’ main air gateway also known as the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has three terminals. Terminal 1 is where most airlines of other countries are serviced. It is the infamous passenger terminal which I think was the basis of the worst airport award with its dirty toilets, chaotic system and opportunistic personnel. It starting operating in the 70’s when then President Marcos started sending out overseas contract workers (OCW) and at the same time attracting tourists through the late Jose “Sunshine Joe” Aspiras. This is also the terminal where former Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. was assassinated.

Terminal 2, the station of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) is better maintained, but just like Terminal one, it has exceeded its capacity. The terminal is shaped like an inverted letter L with the northern wing allotted for international flights and the southern wing for domestic flight. The last time I went out through Terminal 2, it has become crowded and half of the southern wing was now used to service international flights.

Terminal 3 was the latest addition to the airport complex. It has the record of having the longest construction period, surpassing terms of 3 presidents. It was conceptualized and started during the time of President Ramos, started litigation during the time of President Estrada, partial operation during the later years of President Arroyo and finally operationalized by President Noynoy Aquino. It has still some legal issues, but suffice it to say that the “newest” terminal is more comfortable and brighter. This is where my first trip for the year originated.

My stopover is in Changi International Airport, the best in the world. They had the record for several years now, besting other airports in the West. When you are in Changi, you don’t feel you are in an airport. You feel you are in a mall and a five-star hotel – shops with the latest and luxury items are all around, restaurants with wide variety of choices, free Wi-Fi, pockets of resting areas amidst green gardens (mind you, the flowers are natural, not plastic!) One of the things I like is the foot massage machine that are scattered in different areas near the gates.

Clean, orderly, efficient and secured, these are the words that fully describe Changi. You can see Malays, Chinese, Indian and other races working together in a clear example of inter-cultural partnership and even religious tolerance. Despite the awards, the airport management has not rested on its laurels but has continued to improve the place.

Other than Changi, I like Suvanaphumi Airport in Thailand. Other Asian countries are also improving their gateways. Hanoi has a new airport; Myanmar and Cambodia are also initiating new and bigger airports to handle the tourism horde.

In the Philippines, the old Terminal 1 is currently undergoing face lifting. Hopefully the image of being the worst airport will be unrecognizable after the work has been completed. A new airport is also on the drawing board. We should take advantage of the country’s image as an investment haven and build a new airport worthy of the new image of the country. As the saying goes, if you hit rock bottom, there is no other way but up.