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José Edmundo Ocampo Reyes

Instructions to Travelers from the Third World


Before you cross the border, you must learn how to use your passport,

the sine qua non of any voyage. Guard it as your life; you must not lose

your passport.


Your photo may adorn it, but it really is the property of your

crumbling republic, as you are. It is a crime to alter or reproduce

your passport.


Peculiar to you as your shadow, your fingerprint, your double helix,

it is neither carte blanche nor diary of hopes. Don’t abuse

your passport.


You dream of glimpsing snow, cathedrals, fist-sized diamonds

plundered from your land

First you must queue for hours in the sun, wait for the consul to peruse

your passport.


When he slams down his crimson stamp like a gavel, and you walk

home dusting off your shame, how easy it will be to accuse

your passport!


(But it is guiltless as a tortured root that causes you to trip and

break a bone.

Blame instead your fellow terrorists and refugees, and excuse

your passport.)


Think you can sneak by without a visa, feign ignorance, charm

the immigration officer

with your strange locution? Your scheme will boomerang once he

views your passport.


Your name, the theorems you’ve proved, your cancer cure are of

no consequence.

Its pages blighted fields, your passport is your world. You cannot

choose your passport.



Invite a tiger for a weekend.

—José Garcia Villa



























According to the 2002 Encyclopaedia Britannica

Book of the Year, the Philippines has the

fourth-largest population of English speakers

in the world, ranking after the United States,

India, and the United Kingdom.

To show our appreciation for your gift

of language, we’d like to offer you one word

of our own, bundók, which means “mountain.”


It may not slide as smoothly off your tongue

as the French montagne, but we hope nonetheless

your lexicon can accommodate this term,


which has been blessed by the goddess who scatters

ginger along Makiling’s slopes. Keep it

as a souvenir of the times we fought side by side


when the Japanese hunted us down

in the Cordilleras, and let your poets repeat it

when they recount those still-unnamed battles


in their slim volumes. Remember to say the word

out loud, for luck, before you leave our shores,

your frigates full of timber, siblings, gold.

Present Values won the New England Poetry Club Chapbook Contest in 2019.

You can read the judge’s comments here.

-from Present Values (Backbone Press, 2018), selected by Fall 2020 Guest Editor Angela Narcisco Torres

Born and raised in the Philippines, José Edmundo Ocampo Reyes is the author of the chapbook Present Values (Backbone Press, 2018), winner of the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award from the New England Poetry Club. His poems have previously appeared in various Philippine and U.S. journals and have been anthologized in The Powow River Anthology, Villanelles, The Achieve Of, The Mastery: Filipino Poetry and Verse from English, mid-‘90s to 2016, and No Tender Fences: An Anthology of Immigrant and First-Generation American Poetry.

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