SINDANGAN, Philippines – He may be the shortest man on Earth, but Junrey I. Balawing has become a giant in the eyes of his countrymen.

The son of a poor blacksmith and a homemaker in rural Zamboanga del Norte province on the southern island of Mindanao, 18-year-old Junrey, who is a mere 23 1/2 inches tall and weighs only 12 pounds, was recognized Sunday as the world’s shortest man.

“I’m pleased to announce that we have a new world record holder,” Craig Glenday, editor-in-chief of Guinness World Records, said to a cheering crowd of local officials and townspeople.

Junrey broke the former record, held by Nepal’s Khagendra Thapa Magar, by nearly three inches. Magar was measured at 26.4 inches tall in 2010, according to Guinness World Records.

Glenday and Sindangan health officials conducted six sets of measurements over two days to confirm Junrey’s height. Three were carried out privately Saturday, and three were done in public Sunday.

Glenday said Junrey’s listed height was calculated from an average of measurements made while he was standing and lying down.

Although he is not the shortest man in history — that distinction belongs to India’s Gul Mohammed, who was only 22 inches tall and who died in 1997 — it is unlikely that Junrey’s record will be broken anytime soon.

“I imagine it’ll be very hard to beat,” Glenday said. “I can’t imagine anyone else being quite so small.”

Although no monetary award accompanied the Guinness announcement, Junrey was given a plaque by the organization, and townspeople immediately began showering him with cash and other gifts, including a birthday cake that was almost as long as he is tall.

Glenday said it was very likely that Junrey will continue to receive gifts and other assistance from fans around the world.

He cited the case of 27-year-old Sultan Kosen of Turkey. After being confirmed as the world’s tallest man in 2009, Kosen received numerous gifts, free medical care in the United States and has since traveled widely.

“It basically changed his life,” Glenday said. “Maybe the same thing will happen for Junrey.”

The son of Reynaldo Balawing, 37, and Concepcion Balawing, 35, Junrey is the oldest of four children — two boys and two girls.

Their other children are growing up normally.

Concepcion Balawing said she was happy that her son had been recognized as world’s shortest man.

“I’m so proud of my son,” she said.

It’s unclear exactly why Junrey stopped growing when he was a toddler, but Dr. Lolita Hamoy, Sindangan’s municipal health officer, said he lacked normal growth hormones and that an endocrine imbalance was probably to blame.

Because of his condition, Junrey has trouble speaking, and he cannot walk without assistance or stand very long on his own.

However, he has clearly relished the attention showered upon him, grinning happily and mugging repeatedly for journalists’ cameras and well-wishers who pressed in to have their photograph made with the world’s newest celebrity.