The town name “Cainta” was derived from the legend of Ka Inta. ‘Ka’ refers to a term of respect for the elders, and ‘Inta’, short for Jacinta.
Jacinta was a well known rich and generous lady who helped the hungry and the sick. Her house was open to all those who were in need. When she passed away, the people named the town after her, for her good deeds. Another etymology of Cainta is said to be from the two Tagalog words, “Kain Ta”.
As a consequence of the Seven Years War between Britain and Spain, the British invaded Manila in 1762. The British brought along Indian soldiers or sepoys to attack Manila then a Spanish colony. The war ended soon, and Manila was back to Spanish control. However, the Sepoy soldiers chose to stay in Cainta, and settled with the natives. Today, descendants of the Sepoys are very much visible in Cainta, bearing dark skin and prominent Indian facial features.
Influenced by the Indians or sepoys, natives of Cainta learned to make bebinca, a traditional Indian pudding. Cainta’s own pudding is now called the bibingka, it is a renowned delicacy along with suman and latik. Bibingka, suman and latik are Cainta’s famous delicacies and is in fact the core of its yearly Sumbingtik Festival.
Centuries of Spanish occupation of Manila and its neighboring areas has greatly influenced the culture of Cainta. Notably, the Senakulo is a product of such occupation.
The Senakulo, or commonly known as the passion play on the life of Jesus Christ, finds its beginnings in Cainta sometime in 1904. It originated from Barrio Dayap, which is now the entire area of Barangays Sta. Rosa, Sto. Nino and Sto. Domingo. Since most of the residents then believed that calamities were brought on by evil spirits, they erected a cross on a vacant lot and lit the same every night. One night, during Lent, a distinct fragrance emanated from the cross and news of this spread out quickly.
Since then, the residents of Barrio Dayap and the whole town of Cainta have vowed to read the Pasyon, a narrative of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, told in a lyrical manner. To add to this devotion, the residents began to stage the passion play, Senakulo, during the Lenten season, beginning Palm Sunday until Easter Sunday. To this day, this tradition is still being observed by the whole town, and several groups in Cainta participate in the Good Friday procession along Barrio Dayap.
To date, there are eighteen (18) groups engaged in the yearly Senakulo and Panata Lenten commemoration. The oldest are Samahang Krus sa Nayon ng Cainta and Samahang Nazareno.
The Samahang Nazareno has the distinction of being awarded by the Cultural Center of the Philippines the Gawad CCP for the Arts in 1993. Likewise, the Samahang Krus sa Nayon ng Cainta was recognized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in 2009.