THIS THING OF OURS-ADOPTION

THE KOREAN WAR BABY

My name is Don Gordon BELL and I am one of the earliest of the first generation of KAD's (Korean ADoptees). The Korean War had been settled by Armistice three years before I left war-torn Seoul, Korea, on May 21, 1956. It was the first plane of twelve 'war babies' processed thru the Harry Holt Adoption Program. Read more of MY STORY on My Pages.
I grew up in a typical middle-class family of English-Scottish roots in greater Los Angeles, Ca, USA. Memories faded, Korean language was 'lost' and I did not know anything about the country of my birth until I met Korean Marines in Vietnam while serving with the US Marines. It was my first exposure to real Korean people. I was not completely aware of how prejudiced most Koreans thought towards a Half-Breed like me. I learned what "Tuigi" meant, a Korean word for a "Child of a Foreign devil". Oh, wonderful.


All my life I always had to answer the question: "What ARE you?" and I simply would tell 'my story'. It was not a big deal for me, for my Adoptive Parents had taught me that being an American meant that WE were from many countries. I never 'wished to be White' and just learned to stand up for my own identity. MY Identity was as an American, with mixed heritage. I did not know what being "Korean" meant but often wondered about my roots, and what my birth father's ethnicity. Mexican, Native Americans, and Spanish people would tell me that I had their 'genes' for sure. Little did I know they were right!

After college, I traveled to Manila and for ten years I lived in the Philippines. I was excepted as a 'mestizo' and fit into the former Spanish colony. I was a B-movie Character Actor,
working on international and local films, enjoying a 'crazy and wild' abandonment. Then a life changing experience gave me faith in a personal Higher Being. After walking away from the film business, I lived back in the USA, not sure of my direction in life finding work in construction, finish carpentry, door hanging, and many other jobs I'd like to forget.

In 1991, at 38, I attended a Holt Heritage Camp that was a great experience and really began my own journey of Adoption Identity search. I had never thought much of my Korean culture, though I always felt proud of being "HALF-Korean" and "half-Something".

In 1994 I came back to Seoul, Korea, with my church Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and was invited to stay with a church in East Seoul, for one year. I have lived here since late 1995- re-discovering my "Korean-ness", teaching English and telling my Adoption Story to thousands of Korean students of all ages, helping their understanding of Korean Adoptees. It is one of the issues that Korea is now facing, even for its own secretly adopted children, those who were adopted IN-Country by Koreans who desired a family but due to problems with Infertility secretly adopt.

I was a charter member in 1997 (first dozen members) of GOA'L (Global Overseas Adoptees' Link, founded by Ami Nafzger) and continue to be involved with the complex issues of This Thing of Ours-Adoption. Thousands of KADs have visited Korea over the years, searching for their culture and Some search for birth family. Seventy-five thousand have come, yet only 2,400 plus have found Reunion with Birth family, often with varying results. There are many complexities, many don't want to search concerned about offending their Adoptive Families. Each KAD must decide what they want to do, when to do it, etc.


At 61, I am still 'working thru' my Adoption Identity. Each of YOU need to 'work through' your own understanding and hopefully find forgiveness and healing. Read many different accounts and compare before coming to conclusions. I hope that you will learn what IS happening NOW, in the land of your birth, the Rep. of Korea (South Korea). (See Report Links).

Times are changing, the reasons for 'relinquishment for adoption' have shifted, but there continues to be a need for a multi-tiered approach and understanding of Adoption issues. Slowly, attitudes of Korean society ARE changing for the better. But, the majority continue to feel embarrassment and shame. Thus, Adoption is still shrouded in secrecy even for those who are adopted In-country. There ARE positive signs and movements of NGO's and KAD groups are advocating for the Unwed Mothers. However, two-thirds of pregnant women each year, continue to give up their babies for adoption. One out of four are sent overseas, YET three are secretly adopted in-country. The Myth that "Koreans don't adopt" is false, but they need to open up and hopefully change their shame to pride.


This blog is for EVERYONE, whether you are an Adoptee, Adoptive Family, Birth Family or involved in Adoption in ANY way as a professional, social worker, official, etc, from Korea or the world. We examine the complex issues and personal journeys that we, domestic and overseas adoptees, have to face and sort out in This Thing of Ours-Adoption. (Use the Ligit Search function (Left Column) to check for Posts on various topics, TransRacial, TranCultural, MultiCultural families, Domestic, Civil Code Law Adoptions, InterCountry Adoption, etc.)
I personally have come to a compromised, nuanced position on this thing of ours-adoption. I advocate a Multi-tiered Plan that tries to be balanced, realistic, fair to all.

UPDATE: Living in the Philippines since 2010, at first teaching students from several countries as an Online Tutor, based in Makati, Metro Manila. I was working on a Digital Library for Online Tutoring or ELearning; developing an agritourism farm; and Overseas Retirement Care for foreigners needing 24/7 health care.

Then some 18 months ago, in July of 2012 I met with Andrew Leavold, a crazy film obsessed Aussie who helped "pull me back into film making".

WHEW! Lot on my plate. I have also been learning much about the Filipino society's very different viewpoints on unwed motherhood and adoption.

Latest: As of Sept. 2012, I worked on an Indie Film, "Baybayin, the Palawan Script", directed by Auraeus Solito, and international award winning Filipino director. I had a role in the film and explored my hobby as a STILLS Photographer. Currently I have quit all teaching, co-writing on an international film that will be done in 3D and CGI effects. I am back in the film-making business and I love it.

Adoption Discourse needs to hear YOUR VOICE. Every opinion, even opposing viewpoints will be posted and interaction invited by email and Comments have been activated again with spam filters!)
. Welcome, come learn, and share your thoughts.


July 24, 2010

Back to Cebu-“Wanted Wives”

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I have just returned from Cebu Island, staying at the Pacific Cebu Resort on Mactan Island where I filmed years ago with Cherie Gil and Gina Alajar.
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Nanarland-French movie site interview:


“In fact, you never got any lead!”
“Oh, Mon Dieu, pardon moi…No Leading roles? I actually did three, though two were just Filipino films. So please, give me a break! Just a little respect, Si Vous Plait, mon amies.” In “The Five-Style Fists” (1978), starring Ann Villegas, Allan Shishir, Joon Yong Soo -alias Don Gordon Bell, Boy Fernandez, and Jack Lee.
I was the main Contra-vida Lead as the “Eagle Claw Master”, using my Korean name, Joon Yong Soo (wrong spelling Jun Yong Soo). Film was written and directed by Leonardo C. Pascual and produced by Abella Pascual. Jack Lee and I were “loaned” to the Pascual producers by Mr.  K.Y. Lim, before “Bruce’s Fists of Vengeance” (1979) was filmed with Bruce Le and Jack Lee the following year. It was sold internationally but I guess did not make it to DVD listings. 

My best and greatest experience was “Wanted: Wives” based on Lonely Hearts Club where men and women exchanged “real Mail” and actually wrote their letters and sent photos to many, looking for romance.

"Cherie Gil wants ME for her Leading Man?"

Top Contravida

My next Lead was in a Regal Films production as the leading man of Cherie Gil, in a comedy called, “Wanted: Wives!” I knew Cherie from working with her brother Michael De Mesa and Dick Israel in several action films. The whole Gil family were actors I remember.
I was sometimes very "Crazy Don"
Cherie Gil was sweet 17!
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Cherie has returned to the Philippines and acting, even directing.

Cherie saw me at a late night party, not long after I had met Cherie on the set of a film “Intrusion Cambodia”, when she visited her brother Michael de Mesa. (Michael used his father's screen name and I worked with him for Kinavesa Productions). I was drinking my favorite Tanduay Rum and Coke, when Cherie asked me why I did not try to get the part as her leading man in her next film. She seemed surprised that I had already heard that her "leading man" was decided. The Leading Man role already been cast with an American that I knew was signed on by a rival talent agent, George Weber. Cherie at that time did not even know from her agent.
Don Gordon (Bell) at 28.

I told Cherie that I wished that I “looked more White” then I might have gotten the part, so she laughed and asked me why was that? I replied that since I have mixed-blood it was almost impossible for ME to get a role like that. I would have loved being cast for the part, especially since there was a  love scene with her, I joked. But because of my being half-Korean and SOMETHING that I just did not look like a “real American”. The guy chosen was Caucasian with light reddish-blond hair. What is really funny is that through DNA Haplogroup testing, I know I have Spanish/Mexican/Native American blend from my Birth Father’s genes.

Cherie didn't say much more but two days later, I received a call from Direk Gil Portes, that Cherie had insisted that I, Don Gordon Bell, be her LEADING MAN. Really? What about the other guy, I thought it was a “done deal”. Cherie had discussed the story with the direk then insisted that she wanted ME. At the time I did not know the storyline, had only two days to pack and go.
Will wonders never cease! Next thing I knew I was in Cebu with TWO beautiful Filipina actresses, Cherie Gil and Gina Alajar. “Just shoot me now!”

Gina Alajar


WARNING: SPOILER COMING!!

We filmed on location in beautiful Cebu with Gina Alajar playing her cousin. Cherie’s skin color is light brown called a 'morena beauty', so her character thinks it would be better to send a picture of her “lighter complexioned cousin” played by Gina Alajar, to a Lonely Hearts Club for meeting foreign men. My character and Cherie's began a long series of letter writing (Some of you young people may not be able to "Write Cursive or Script- except to sign your name). Then suddenly he comes unannounced to Cebu. The comedy ensues as the two cousins try to fool me that Gina is really Cherie.


The real boyfriend of ‘Gina’ is jealous and unwittingly blows the secret, the truth comes out when he kidnaps Gina to elope with her. Everything turns out cool, because my character tells Cherie that he likes HER no matter "the color of her skin". There is a double wedding at the end of the movie.

My comment about “wishing I looked more White” made Cherie's realize THAT was the main theme of the comedy! Reel life imitating Real life. It was about her character ‘wishing that she looked more fair-skinned’ instead of being a dark-skinned beauty who thought "whiter was nicer". 

“But Direct, you said "nibble on her ear"!

When Cherie and I had the 'dream romance sequence', it was with black background, 'pasties' (on her), blazing hot lights, and about 15 people crowded into the suite, no aircon or fan. Romantic scenes are not what you think, it takes a long time to get things filmed. I was worried about my breath, so I brushed my teeth two or three times, and gargled several times throughout the long sequence.

Cherie commented on my thoughtfulness (apparently some other actors-no names- were not so conscious) and except for some clumsiness and ignorance on my part everything went well. (Never got to kiss lips to lips though-nuts!) 
Until the director told me to ‘nibble on her ear’ and she lurched up and out of the camera frame when I DID just that. (No one told ME that I was supposed to "ACT ONLY like I was nibbling"- Oops, OH...okay. Sorry about that...But Direk, you told me to nibble on her ear.

"Oh, NO." Direk Gil laughed, "The camera doesn't SEE you doing that or anything…so you just have to pretend. Just kiss her face then neck, 'nibble on her ear', then go down, down to her breasts ...BUT only pretend, move your head around, do you get it now?"

I began to ‘get it’ and make all the pretend moves. Finally, we got through hours of filming and the result was really 'dreamy' on screen. 
I was more nervous than her, but Cherie was very understanding and helpful. I will state for the record that since Cherie was already an "up and coming star" who must be 'connected' with Filipino Lead Actors we could only remain as friends. Sayang, talo ko.

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"Makulay, ang Daigdig ni Nora"

nora008 A year later I played the SAME type of character on Nora Aunor’s “Colorful World of Nora Anor” as a guy working on a oil rig in Brunei.

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He (my character is an American-number one choice for getting a husband) is writing a pen pal in Manila. She does not mention to him that she is confined to a wheelchair because of polio. Of course, after he meets her and the truth becomes known he insists that he wants to marry her no matter what. It was my second “marriage” on Filipino media.











Just recently Cherie Gil is back in the Philippines, in the business again.








Her next film earned her several times what she made on "Wanted: Wives". I knew that she was going to be a great actress, one who would survive because she was talented, able to play completely different roles.




"FULL GALLUP" 23 March, 2014
Cherie Gil has made a great name for herself. She has continued to be one of the great Filipina actresses of all time because of her ability to play a bitch or a diva. She has indeed become a 'force to be reckoned with'.

Don Gordon (BELL)
I used Don Gordon as a screen name at this time.
Thank you Cherie for giving me the chance to be your ‘leading man’, a Mixed-Blood guy who was given a once in a lifetime 'dream' role.

After the last performance of FULL GALLUP, 23 March, 2014

Cherie Gil as fashion doyenne Diana Vreeland in a one-woman play, "FULL GALLUP"...23 March,2014




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