Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Measuring just 59.93 centimetres, or 23.5 inches, Junrey Balawing, 18 years old is the oldest of four siblings -- the rest all of normal stature -- born in the rural town of Sindangan on the Philippines' southern island of Mindanao.
"Officially he is the world's shortest man," said Craig Glenday, editor-in-chief of the Guinness Book of World Records who measured Balawing in front of cheering relatives and villagers on Sunday, 19th June 2011.
The previous record holder was Khagendra Thapa Magar of Nepal, who was measured in 2010 at just over 26 inches.
Balawing is a poor Filipino blacksmith's son who stands less than 2 feet (60 centimeters).
The declaration by the Guiness World Records of Balawing as the world's shortest man sparked a jubilant celebration in his hometown.
Villagers and officials showered the coastal town's newly famous resident with a feast, cake, balloons and cash gifts.
Dozens of journalists descended on Sindangan, a fishing and farming town of 90,000 located about 450 miles (730 kilometers) south of Manila, to cover the event.
"Thank you," Balawing told the crowd in a local dialect which was translated by his father, Reynaldo.
Balawing blew out the candles on the cake and clapped heartily each time the crowd applauded. He was later heard saying "Kapoy," or "I'm tired."
Balawing -- who is about the size of a toddler and has a child's demeanor -- needs to hold something to be able to stand because of weak knees.
He was photographed propping himself up with empty Coca-Cola bottles, which were taller than his waistline.
Balawing's mother grew teary-eyed during the ceremony. She earlier said she was happy with her son's instant fame.
Glenday said he was struck with Balawing's lively personality and constant smile.
"Although he's short, he takes that in stride," Glenday told The Associated Press. "He has this cheeky smile."
Aside from a Guinness certificate, the crown does not come with any cash award.
Glenday said he hopes the international fame will bring in gifts and donations, particularly medical supplies to ensure Balawing's health.
Nobody could explain why Balawing stopped growing a few months after his birth, his father said.
Sindangan Vice Mayor Bess Jagonio, a doctor, speculated that he may have an endocrine or a birth-related defect.
Balawing's brother and two sisters are all average size.
His family said they tried to send Balawing to school but withdrew him after he distracted other children's attention.
Local officials got the idea of informing the Guinness records committee about Balawing from journalists who learned about his size.