Filipino teenager poised to be named world's smallest man

SINDANGAN, Philippines — In this sleepy town by the sea, a new international celebrity is about to be crowned.

Junrey I. Balawing, 17, is expected to be confirmed Sunday by Guinness World Records as the world's shortest man.

According to local health officials here in the province of Zamboanga del Norte on the southern island of Mindanao, the teenager, whose 18th birthday coincides Sunday with Philippines Independence Day, stands a mere 24 and \ inches tall, about the size of a one-year-old.

If the measurements are confirmed, Balawing could also become the shortest person ever recorded in history, according to Craig Glenday, editor-in-chief of Guinness World Records.

"It's a significant event, really," said Glenday, who along with several other Guinness World Records officials visited the small town Saturday to make the final determination.

Once it's official, Balawing will smash the current record by nearly two inches.

The current title holder is Khagendra Thapa Magar, who stands at 26.4 inches, according to the organization.

According to Glenday, the young man will undergo three sets of measurements to confirm his height.

Balawing has not grown since he was a toddler, and he struggles to walk, even with assistance, and can barely stand on his own.

Doctors and other local health officials say an endocrine imbalance appears to be the cause of his condition. He also appears to lack normal growth hormones, according to Dr. Lolita Hamry, municipal health director for Sindangan.

Balawing mugged pleasantly for the cameras Saturday as Glenday and other Guinness officials visited the town to take measurements for the record books, clearly relishing being at the center of attention.

"He can understand what you say to him, but he's not that articulate," Hamry said. "His mind is really that of a one-year-old."

Delia C. Jamisala, a nurse at the center, described Balawing's case as baffling.

"He's had complete immunizations," she said. Neither his parents nor three other siblings share his condition. "Maybe it's genetics. But (otherwise) Junrey is completely healthy."

(Brown is a McClatchy special correspondent.)


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