While out exploring the Historic Downtown District of Kissimmee we drove around a rotunda with a monument and followed the road because it had other monuments on it. Come to find out, it was Monument Ave. While driving down Monument Ave, we happened across a nice park that was right on the edge of a lake. We pulled over to further explore the grounds and see what the park had to offer.
The park had long sidewalks for walking or jogging. It also had a playscape for kids, outdoor seating and eating spaces and wide open grass areas with big mossy, oak trees and tall standing palm trees.
It also had areas to repair your bike, a pier, a lighthouse and other attractions. They are adding on more as they are still building onto the park. The park also sports a nice view of the lake it is adjacent to, Lake Tohopekaliga or Lake Toho for short.
One of the most surprising things that we ran into was a monument at one corner of the park. It was called the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial. Bataan, pronounced Ba-ta-ahn, is a location where a prolonged battle and the subsequent death march took place in the Philippines in World War II. This memorial is to honor those who fell and celebrate those who lived. From the stone carving in front of the monument:
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan invaded the Philippines on December 8, 1941, forcing General Douglas MacArthur and his forces to withdraw to the Bataan Peninsula for their last stand against the advancing Japanese Imperial Army. The adjourning fortified island of Corregidor at the entrance to Manila Bay became the headquarters of all American and Filipino forces.
Outgunned, they took on the Japanese on Bataan for 99 days, living on less than half-rations. With food, medicine, ammunition and any hope of being rescued gone, over 76,000 exhausted men – most of them Filipinos – surrendered to the Japanese on April 98, 1942. Corregidor, with its 11,000 defenders, fell on May 6, 1942. The prolonged defense of Bataan and Corregidor upset Japan’s timetable and saved Australia.
Then came the tragic Bataan Death March – the toruous 65-mile trek to the prison camps with no food, water or rest. According to the International War Crimes Commission, 10,300 people – including women and children – died of disease, starvation, sadistic beatings and outright execution during the march. Many of those who survived the camps were shipped to Japan, Korea and Manchuria, and sold as slave labor to factories and mining companies.
Of the 36,000 Americans who defended Bataan and Corregidor, only about 7,000 were left at war’s end. They received their campaign ribbons when they returned to the Philippines in September 1945, before heading to the United States.
This monument and inscription took me by surprise and was especially powerful because my mother is Filipino. She was born and raised around Manila and my grandmother, Lala, lived through this. If things would have turned out a little different, I would not even be here. Reading this and taking all of that in was very powerful. I want to take a moment and give a special thanks to my Lala. Without her courage and tenacity, dozens of people would not be here right now. We love you Lala.
As stated, this was one monument at the corner of the park. There were other monuments up and down Monument Ave as well as special dedications and whole building sized murals. If you are in the Historic Downtown District of Kissimmee, you should definitely swing by and check this place out.
The park’s website – http://lakefrontpark.org/lakefront/index.php.