On Junrey Balawing’s 18th birthday party, he received more than the usual set of gifts: he got a Guinness world record.
Balawing, the son of a poor blacksmith in Sindangan, Philippines, was crowned the world’s shortest man, measuring 23.6 inches tall. The previous record-holder, Nepal’s Khagendra Thapar Magar, is 26.3 inches tall and held the title for about eight months. Although the shortest living man, Balawing missed the title of shortest man in history, which is held by Gul Mohammed of India, who was 22.5 inches tall and died in 1997.
Weighing in at only 11 pounds, Balawing looks like a toddler, and has experienced health and speech problems due to his size. But on Sunday, “dozens of journalists” showed up at his small home city, and he celebrated with a feast of roasted pigs for visitors, neighbors and family (including his three normal-sized siblings).
Balawing reportedly thanked the crowd in his local dialect, and then blew out the candles on his cake after several attempts. The Associated Press reported that he was later heard saying that he was tired.
Balawing’s size has not always been cause for celebration: his family said that he was born as a normal sized baby, but quickly became sickly before his first birthday. He completely stopped growing two months after his birth and was not able to walk until he was five-years old. Around this time, Balawing was removed from school because he had proven distracting to the other students.
Despite health problems, Balawing’s mother said he is a happy teenager. “Although he’s short, he takes that in stride,” Guinness World Records representative Craig Glenday told the AP. “He has this cheeky smile.”
His father Reynaldo Balawing called his son a “lucky charm,” because, after his birth, Reynaldo was able to find a job that could support their family. Although the Guinness world record does not come with a cash prize, Glenday said he hopes that Balawing’s new fame will help in soliciting donations for medical supplies.
The average one-year old boy is 28 inches tall.