Remembering Fat Fingers and Whammos: What Ever Happened to Big Bob’s?August 24, 2019
As a “batang nineties” kid, I remember school baon treats were usually wafers, cream-filled crackers, and maybe a few chocolate chip cookies. There was no S&R then; imported snacks were brought in through the kindness of a visiting relative from abroad, a trip to the few years-old Duty Free Philippines, or the rare special treat from the counters of Rustan’s Supermarket.
The good stuff were chocolate bars like Serg’s, Chips Ahoy, and snack cakes, specifically locally-made Big Bob’s Snack Cakes. We would come to know them “twinkies” when Sky Cable finally plugged into more households to give us more access to U.S. sitcoms and other such shows. They came in two variations, Fat Fingers, which was a golden sponge cake with cream filling and Whammo’s, a chocolate sponge cake with chocolate filling. For me, when snack time hit, they were my gold in the Philippines. Cue choirs of angels and cinematic light shining through as seven-year-old me snapped open my bright blue Captain Planet lunchbox and found a snack cake next to my Planeteer thermos. These cakes were individually sealed, giving it that possessive air of, “Mine!” and kept takaw-tingin classmates from asking to trade or taste.
Cut to a number of years later, in my early twenties in the year 2010. I was watching a gun-slinging Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg barrel their way through zombie-ravaged America. Harrelson was in search of twinkies. I started to crave, and crave badly. Decades had passed, but it had just dawned on me, “What the hell happened to Big Bob’s Snack Cakes?”
I had very little to go on in the search for the fate of the brand. They were no longer on the grocery shelves, I realized. There was nothing on Google, just more nostalgia and even more people my age and older wondering about what happened to it. I thought that it had sold the brand to become the Quake Cakes available in groceries and stores. While Quake Cakes tasted nothing like the snack I remembered, I settled for that conclusion.
Weeks after Serg’s story got published, a few more friends asked me to find out what happened to Big Bob’s. In remembering the product, a few more memories trickled in, and suddenly remembered that my Mom had worked on the Big Bob’s Snack Cakes account while in advertising a long time back. I had this vague idea that they were close to, if not the same proprietors as Coney Island Ice Cream. The same group went on to found Go Nuts Donuts in 2001.
A bit of clicking around on the Go Nuts Donuts site and I found the concrete lead that I needed. In the About Page, they were the same owners, under the company name of Filia Foods Inc. which listed Whammo’s as one of its products. A few phone calls and an e-mail later, Go Nuts Donuts GM, Macy Bibat confirmed:
“In April of 2004, the principals behind Filia Foods decided to concentrate all their efforts on expanding and improving Go Nuts Donuts. Go Nuts Donuts at that time was ripe for expansion after having just opened the branch in The Fort Strip Mall in December of 2003. Both companies, Filia Foods and Doughnut People, Inc share the same principals.”
As this article was being conceptualized, I had hoped to find some shred of its original product shots and packaging. But even that, Bibat admitted, was long lost in the archives. At some point, out of incredulous curiosity, she had to ask, “It’s a dead brand, so why the interest?”
I gave her a more direct answer, that there are kids like me who just had to know what happened.
But what I really wanted to say was that I needed something to hope for in the event of a zombie apocalypse.